On December 14, 2022, during an open Commission meeting, the Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to issue a Federal Register notice requesting comments on the efficacy of the Green Guides. The initial request for comments seeks input on whether to retain, modify, or rescind the Guides. The notice was published in late December, marking the beginning of a 60-day comment period that ends on February 21, 2023.
As a part of its regulatory review, the Commission’s request for public comment seeks information about the costs of complying with the Guides, evidence of the degree of industry compliance with the Guides, and whether guidance is no longer needed for particular claims. The Commission is also soliciting comments on whether additional or more specific guidance is needed for a variety of claims currently covered in the Guides, including compostable, degradable, recycled content, and recyclable claims. In her separate statement, Chair Khan referenced recent reports that recycled plastics often end up in landfills, and questioned whether recyclability claims should reflect the realities of how products are processed rather than whether they are picked up from a recycling bin.
In addition to requesting input on whether to update existing claim-specific guidance to reflect new technology and market realities, the Commission will consider public comments about possible expansions to the Guides, as well as the possibility of launching a rulemaking. The Commission requests input on whether to augment existing guidance on carbon offset claims by offering views on other claims related to climate change such as “net zero,” “carbon neutral,” “low carbon,” and “carbon negative.” Noting the “proliferation of environmental benefit claims includes claims not currently addressed in the Guides,” the Commission is also seeking input on whether to add to the Green Guides guidance on energy use or energy efficiency claims as well as “organic” and “sustainable” claims, two claims on which the Commission previously declined to issue guidance.
During the open Commission meeting, members of the public offered input on the Green Guides review, including the need to consider environmental justice concerns, market changes since the last regulatory review such as the increase in online shopping, and the utility of tracking mechanisms such as mass balance chain of custody to inspire trust in environmental marketing claims.
The 60-day comment period is the first major step in the Commission’s multi-year effort to review the Green Guides.