4A’s Submits Comments to FTC on Environmental Claims in Marketing (i.e. “Green Guides”)

On April 24, 2023, the 4A’s submitted written comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding advertising agency recommendations for potential updates to the FTC Green Guides.

The FTC published a Request for Comment in December 2022 to seek public input into potential updates and changes to the Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Claims. The FTC Green Guides are the foremost guidance in the U.S. providing companies direction on what they need to know when making environmental claims so that they are not unfair or deceptive to consumers. The Green Guides were first introduced in 1992, and have not been updated since 2012.

The 4A’s written comments specifically recommends the FTCs’ revised Green Guides include:

  • More clear guidance from the FTC as to how marketers should be thinking about aspirational claims, and what they should be doing to ensure that they are compliant; this is particularly important as there is a growing schism between how courts and self-regulatory bodies are treating the issue.
  • Detailed best practices and guidance in understanding transparent ways to communicate with consumers when using the term “sustainable”
  • A helpful framework to utilize when evaluating possible carbon offset projects and
  • more guidance to understand what advertisers should be thinking about when utilizing carbon offsets
  • Regulatory clarification and definitional clarity on the difference between carbon credits and a carbon offsets
  • A balance in international harmonization of laws, including the EU’s recent Green Claims Directive, that codifies best practices as the floor, while simultaneously not overly restricting an evolving space.
  • More granular guidance into how companies should be thinking about environmental marketing claims by business categorization, i.e. automotive, consumer packaged goods, etc. as different industries have different parameters when it comes to these issues (i.e. automotive requires a complex supply chain, etc.).
  • The development of official FTC training materials to educate companies about best practices for the implementation of the FTC Green Guides.

To showcase marketers ongoing thought leadership on sustainability issues, the comments also highlighted 4A’s members’ contributions to best-in-class research and studies concerning how consumers view and internalize environmental marketing claims, as well as how consumers feel about sustainability and environmental issues in general. Advertising can play a positive role in driving sustainable consumer behaviors, and the opportunity is significant.

As more regulators and self-regulatory entities attempt to crack-down on companies for what they consider to be misleading environmental claims, the 4A’s hopes the FTC’s updates to its Green Guides will help companies better navigate compliance, advance meaningful environmental change, and promote macroeconomic growth.

The FTC’s request for public input on the Green Guides updates invited comments on 19 general issues, in addition to asking questions about specific kinds of claims. Worth noting, a key question in the Request is whether the Green Guides should remain a guidance document or whether the FTC should initiate rulemaking proceedings and incorporate some or all of the principles of the Green Guides into a rule.

Have questions about the FTC Green Guides or the 4A’s written comments? Contact Alison Pepper, 4A’s EVP of Government Relations and Sustainability.