Will The Revised "Green Guides" Do More Harm Than Good?


Last week Sun Chips pulled its biodegradable snack bag off the market around the same time that the FTC announced that it wanted to change its so-called "Green Guides." Coincidence? Maybe. Sun Chips explained that the more environmentally-friendly bag that it launched with a nice spot on Earth Day - was "noisier" than its regular bag, raising complaints from consumers who were more interested in having a quiet snack bag than doing something to help save the planet. But complaints about "noisy" bags aside, the changes that the FTC has proposed to the Green Guides will make it harder for marketers like Sun Chips to tout the things that they're doing to help reduce the negative effect that their product manufacturing and distribution pipelines are having on the environment. If the FTC takes away a brand's ability to tout those attributes, then it also takes away a brand's ability to leverage those attributes to increase sales. And if that's taken away, we run the risk that brands will make green initiatives less of a priority, which will hurt us all.

The FTC's proposed changes to the "Green Guides" were developed using information collected from public workshops, public comments and a study of how consumers understand certain environmental claims. The proposed changes can be divided into two parts: (i) revisions designed to strengthen and clarify the FTC's previous guidance on marketing claims addressed in the Green Guides that currently exist and (ii) new guidance addressing claims not addressed by the current Green Guides, such as "carbon offset" claims, "renewable energy" claims and "renewable materials" claims...

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