FTC Revises Green Guides on Sustainability Marketing Claims

FTC logoIn response to businesses making unsubstantiated claims, the Federal Trade Commission attempted to level the playing field for the honest businesses by implementing revisions to their Green Guides on marketing claims, toughening standards for marketing products as green.

Looking around, it’s easy to find companies using broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims such as “green” or “eco-friendly”. The FTC is encouraging businesses to avoid such broad statements as they can be difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate.

When marketers do make product claims, the FTC is requiring marketers to substantiate those claims. For example, if a product is marketed as “degradable”, evidence must be provided that it will indeed entirely break down and return to nature within a year after disposal.

The new Green Guides revisions also include sections on certifications and seals of approval, carbon offsets, free-of claims, non-toxic claims, made with renewable energy claims, and made with renewable materials claims.  On the other hand, they have declined to take any stance on the use of the terms “sustainable”, “organic” or “natural”. For example, in the case of “organic“, guidance for use of the term has already been provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By marketing with these new guidelines in mind, you are taking part in the promotion of honest business practices at the same time. Please contact us if you want more information on how the FTC’s new Green Guides will impact your business.

What is Sustainability Reporting?

So what exactly is a sustainability report? Also known as the triple bottom line report or corporate social responsibility report, these reports highlight the sustainability initiatives of a business or organization and are usually targeted to investors, stakeholders and the public. The first of these was issued in the 1980s by companies in the chemical industry, which needed help with their public image regarding environmental and sustainability issues. These reports gave companies an opportunity to help repair that image by sharing their successes with green initiatives.

One of the most commonly GRI logoused standards for sustainability reporting is from the impartial, non-profit Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI. According to GRI, “A sustainability report is an organizational report that gives information about economic, environmental, social and governance performance” and “Establishing a sustainability reporting process helps [organizations] to set goals, measure performance, and manage change.” Like with regular financial reports, regular sustainability reporting can give company leadership and investors a sense of the organization’s trending, accomplishments and challenges in living out its sustainability mission.

We believe that sustainability reporting is important especially for larger companies and organizations. When an organization reports on sustainability progress as well as the financial, social and environmental measures and returns, an organization can then fully understand the operational importance of sustainability initiatives and make that important connection with your company’s bottom line. Further, sustainability reporting can be helpful in creating a positive green perspective on your company’s image and brand.

For small to medium sized businesses, formal sustainability reporting may not be necessary. However, developing a good communication plan around sustainability is still vital to educating your internal and external stakeholders. Here is an article on How to Tell Your Green Story Internally.

We at eco-officiency are trained and certified with GRI, so can help guide you in the process. Contact us for more information.

GAIA Metrics offers a time-saving tool for Sustainability Reporting

A new  time-saving sustainability reporting tool was recently introduced called Gaia Metrics CSR QuickStart™.

The program tool  searches across company sources and records to extract key words and numbers used to populate a Corporate Sustainability Report. It then takes data and populates it into a reporting format to essentially make the reporting process more streamlined and less resource intensive. In the process it also identifies gaps in missing data that may attract the attention of regulators, media, community groups and other stakeholders.

It also offers the option to publish a report based on the GRI format or  PSI, ISO 14000, ISO 26000 or GEMI reports.