EU launches Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Environmental Claims


Back to the overview
The European Commission (Directorate General Health & Consumers) is launching a “Multi-stakeholder Dialogue” on environmental claims. This follows a “Greenwashing Workshop” organized by the Commission on the occasion of the European Consumer Summit in May 2012.

The purpose of this Dialogue is to analyse the use of environmental claims in the different markets, map best practices and identify potential areas of improvement. Conclusions and recommendations will be presented in a report which will feed into the Commission's reflection on environmental claims' policies at EU level.

The report will be presented in the spring of 2013 following three meetings over the coming months, starting on 8 October.

The meetings will comprise maximum 25 representatives from different stakeholder organisations with relevant expertise on environmental claims, coming from, inter alia:
• Consumers organisations (national and EU level)
• Environmental NGOs
• National authorities/enforcers
• Self-regulatory bodies
• EU-wide industry and advertising associations
• Academics

WFA has accepted the Commission's invitation to participate in this Dialogue, and will keep members abreast of relevant developments

2) FTC releases updated “Green Guides”

On 1 October, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released an updated version of its green marketing guidelines to help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The revision to the Green Guides is the first since 1998 and comes following nearly 340 unique comments and more than 5,000 total comments received from consumers and industry groups.

The guides apply to environmental claims in labeling, advertising, promotional materials, and all other forms of marketing in any medium, whether asserted directly or by implication, through words, symbols, logos, depictions, product brand names, or any other means.

What's new:
• Among the updates, the guides warn marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that their products are environmentally friendly or eco-friendly.
• New sections address the use of carbon offsets, "green" certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims.
• The revised guidelines also outline how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
• They advise marketers not to make an unqualified degradable claim for a solid waste product unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after customary disposal;
• They caution that items destined for landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so marketers should not make unqualified degradable claims for these items; and
• They clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims.

The terms "sustainable," "natural" and "organic" are not mentioned in the new guidelines. The FTC said that is because it may lack a basis to provide meaningful guidance, or it wants to avoid proposing guidance that duplicates or contradicts that of other agencies.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the changes will level the field for honest business people: "The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and for producers who want to sell them," he said in a press release. "But this win-win can only occur if marketers' claims are truthful and substantiated."

For more information please contact Malte Lohan:

Sign up to monthly WFA news