How companies at CES are taking on climate change (or pretending to)

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

I can’t get it out of my head: A honkingly big Caterpillar sign that read, “JOIN US AS WE BUILD A BETTER WORLD.” The digital recruitment billboard at CES 2023 followed promos for an autonomous compactor and excavator, and proceeded another callout: “CHECK OUT OUR BIG AUTONOMOUS TRUCK.”

I did, and boy was it ever.

A “better world” could mean anything in corporate-speak, but in this case, the company is talking specifically about sustainability — and using aspirational language to distance itself from a fossil-fueled role in carving up the earth. Like Caterpillar, many of the exhibitors I saw as I walked the tech-show floor seemed to be rinsing their brands via earthly taglines, stock photos of crops and sunbeams, plastic trees and/or AstroTurf. I find this sort of thing especially distracting now that climate is my main beat, and that’s unfortunate, because there was still lots of intriguing climate (and adjacent) tech on display this year, tucked in among the vague evocations of nature.

FTC seeks public comment on potential updates to its ‘Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims

The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it is seeking public comment on potential updates and changes to the Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Claims. The Commission’s Green Guides help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Commission seeks to update the guides based on increasing consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products.

“Consumers are increasingly conscious of how the products they buy affect the environment, and depend on marketers’ environmental claims to be truthful,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine. “We look forward to this review process, and will make any updates necessary to ensure the Green Guides provide current, accurate information about consumer perception of environmental benefit claims. This will both help marketers make truthful claims and consumers find the products they seek.”

The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 and were revised in 1996, 1998, and 2012. They provide guidance on environmental marketing claims, including how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims to avoid deceiving consumers.

The FTC is requesting general comments on the continuing need for the guides, their economic impact, their effect on the accuracy of various environmental claims, and their interaction with other environmental marketing regulations. The Commission also seeks information on consumer perception evidence of environmental claims, including those not in the guides currently.

Specific issues on which the FTC expects to get many public comments include:

  • Carbon Offsets and Climate Change: The current Guides provide guidance on carbon offset and renewable energy claims. The Commission invites comments on whether the revised Guides should provide additional information on related claims and issues.
  • The Term “Recyclable:” Among other things, the FTC seeks comments on whether it should change the current threshold that guides marketers on when they can make unqualified recyclable claims, as well as whether the Guides should address in more detail claims for products that are collected (picked up curbside) by recycling programs but not ultimately recycled.
  • The Term “Recycled Content:” Comments are requested on whether unqualified claims about recycled content – particularly claims related to “pre-consumer” and “post industrial” content – are widely understood by consumers, as well as whether alternative methods of substantiating recycled content claims may be appropriate; and
  • The Need for Additional Guidance: The Commission also seeks comment on the need for additional guidance regarding claims such as “compostable,” “degradable,” ozone-friendly,” “organic,” and “sustainable, as well as those regarding energy use and energy efficiency.

list of recent cases brought relating to topics covered by the guides can be found on the FTC’s website.

The Commission vote approving the publication of a Federal Register notice announcing the opening of the public comment period was 4-0, with Chair Lina M. Khan issuing a separate statement. The notice has been published in the Federal Register and the FTC is accepting comments for 60 days. Information about how to submit comments can be found in the Federal Register notice.

FTC seeks public comment on potential updates to its ‘Green Guides’ for the use of environmental marketing claims

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that it is seeking public comment on potential updates and changes to the Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Claims. The Commission’s Green Guides help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Commission seeks to update the guides based on increasing consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products.

“Consumers are increasingly conscious of how the products they buy affect the environment, and depend on marketers’ environmental claims to be truthful. We look forward to this review process, and will make any updates necessary to ensure the Green Guides provide current, accurate information about consumer perception of environmental benefit claims. This will both help marketers make truthful claims and consumers find the products they seek.”

Samuel Levine, Bureau of Consumer Protection Director

The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 and were revised in 1996, 1998, and 2012. They provide guidance on environmental marketing claims, including how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims to avoid deceiving consumers.

The FTC is requesting general comments on the continuing need for the guides, their economic impact, their effect on the accuracy of various environmental claims, and their interaction with other environmental marketing regulations. The Commission also seeks information on consumer perception evidence of environmental claims, including those not in the guides currently.

Specific issues on which the FTC expects to get many public comments include:

  • Carbon Offsets and Climate Change: The current Guides provide guidance on carbon offset and renewable energy claims. The Commission invites comments on whether the revised Guides should provide additional information on related claims and issues.
  • The Term “Recyclable:” Among other things, the FTC seeks comments on whether it should change the current threshold that guides marketers on when they can make unqualified recyclable claims, as well as whether the Guides should address in more detail claims for products that are collected (picked up curbside) by recycling programs but not ultimately recycled.
  • The Term “Recycled Content:” Comments are requested on whether unqualified claims about recycled content – particularly claims related to “pre-consumer” and “post industrial” content – are widely understood by consumers, as well as whether alternative methods of substantiating recycled content claims may be appropriate; and
  • The Need for Additional Guidance: The Commission also seeks comment on the need for additional guidance regarding claims such as “compostable,” “degradable,” ozone-friendly,” “organic,” and “sustainable, as well as those regarding energy use and energy efficiency.

list of recent cases brought relating to topics covered by the guides can be found on the FTC’s website.

The Commission vote approving the publication of a Federal Register notice announcing the opening of the public comment period was 4-0, with Chair Lina M. Khan issuing a separate statement. The notice will be published in the Register in mid-January 2023, after which the FTC will accept comments for 60 days. Information about how to submit comments can be found in the Federal Register notice.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.

If a company pledges to source from a ‘regenerative’ farm, what does that really mean?

Read the full story at Ag Daily.

I received an email from a marketer touting the latest announcement from a well-known baking-goods company. She informed me that the company was committed to sustainability and mitigating their carbon footprint. To become more sustainable, the company pledged to source all of its wheat from farmers using regenerative production methods. Now to be fair, this was only one of several promises, but obviously it was the one that caught my attention.

So I did something absolutely crazy. I asked her how they define regenerative agriculture.

I anticipated her response. She said the company has a “fluid definition” without set standards and practices. But generally it meant more carbon in the soil and better soil health.

I agreed with her that farms shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach — and I really meant it. What works for a farm in southern California won’t work for one near the beaches of Lake Michigan. The best production practices involve a calculation on a farm-to-farm basis that keeps in mind weather, soil type, seasons, and the crop involved. And most farmers are focusing more and more on healthy soils and the things they can do to promote them.

She gave me the right answer. But doesn’t that make the company’s pledge a bit wishy-washy?

Most U.S. consumers don’t know what ‘carbon neutral’ means

Sweaters with carbon neutral CO2 neutral verified on the label.

Read the full story at Morning Consult.

When asked to select the correct definition of the term “carbon-neutral” from three options, roughly 3 in 5 U.S. adults either chose the incorrect definition or said they didn’t know what it meant, according to new Morning Consult data. 

ESG, PFAS and emerging chemicals: FTC taking aim?

Read the full story at the National Law Review.

Looking ahead to later in 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is expected to review and update its “Green Guides“, which “…set forth the Federal Trade Commission’s current views about environmental claims. The guides help marketers [and companies] avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive….” The updates to the Green Guide could prove to be significant, as the Guide was last updated in 2012, long before issues such as ESG, PFAS and emerging chemicals were at the forefront of corporate, investment world and insurer attention. Updates to the guide, however, could have significant impacts on how companies promote and market their products, and non-compliance with the Green Guide can have significant financial consequences for a company.

USDA looks for ways to standardize climate-friendly claims, opportunities & bolster local food systems

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

As a climate-smart food and beverage market emerges and consumers show a willingness to pay a premium for products touted as climate-friendly, the US Department of Agriculture is taking steps to standardize marketing claims and ensure an even playing field for stakeholders.

More companies want to be “carbon neutral.” What does that mean?

Read the full story at Vox.

Terms like “carbon negative” and “climate positive” have recently popped up in branding.

What does the term “ethical coffee” actually mean?

Read the full story at Salon.

Let’s decode phrases like “fair trade,” “sustainable” and “relationship coffee”

Good-Loop launches green ad tag to track environmental impact of digital campaigns

Read the full story at Energy + Environment Leader.

Good-Loop, the ethical ad tech company that earlier this year announced its free Carbon-Calculator to calculate the carbon footprint of online ads, has launched Green Ad Tag, allowing brands and agencies to track and offset the CO2 emissions of their digital ads in real time.