FTC Primes Regulations for Era of 'Green' Branding

Jan. 1, 2008

WASHINGTON /PRNewswire - As consumers increasingly demand environmentally friendly products, the FTC will (beginning in January) accelerate plans to review its existing "Green Guidelines" to consider what exactly constitutes terms such as "carbon neutral" and "carbon offsets" and determine what, if any, verifiable standards businesses must meet, according to a noted environmental public policy lawyer.

"For close to a decade, the Federal Trade Commission has overseen the use of key environmental identifiers in the marketing and packaging of products and services that claim to use recycled materials, biodegradables or organics. Today, manufacturers and service providers are adding new terms to their marketing lexicons, such as 'carbon neutral' and 'carbon offsets,'" explains Elliott Laws, a former senior administrator and lawyer with the Environmental Protection Agency who is now an environmental and public policy lawyer at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington, D.C. "By moving up its plans to review its existing ‘Green Guidelines,' the FTC is acknowledging that environmental marketing is evolving along with consumers' sophistication and knowledge of climate change and other environmental issues."

The FTC will launch the first in a series of hearings with consumers, business and industry groups to sort out what it means to be carbon neutral, among other descriptors that resonate with consumers' concerns over climate change in January 2008. The FTC will also evaluate whether existing rules regulating "green" designations adopted in 1998 are even useful and cost-effective for consumers and business.

"If you say you are buying carbon credits to offset your emissions what does that mean, for instance, in terms of your actual product?" asks Laws. "Is your competitor doing more if they are generating those credits? And how can consumers know for certain which company is actually doing more to make the product itself greener? Understanding the terminology is as up in the air as the methodology."

Laws adds that the FTC currently offers its "Green Guides" on responsible environmental marketing to businesses as recommendations only. The agency does, however, investigate and enforce cases stemming from allegations of deceptive advertising and fraud concerning environmental and other claims.

"The FTC hasn't revised these green guidelines since the late 1990s. Most likely the question at these hearings will be: Should these guides be expanded?" notes Laws. "And, if so, into what other areas?"

Pillsbury was among the first law firms in the nation to launch a climate change and sustainability practice. Drawing on lawyers from Pillsbury's energy, environmental regulation, litigation, public policy, project finance and corporate practices, Pillsbury's Climate Change and Sustainability practice takes a multidisciplinary approach to climate change issues. As pressure to curb greenhouse gas emissions increases around the world, companies are concentrating on their sustainability policies and grappling with how to manage their own climate-affecting actions and related litigation risks. The practice also helps companies identify and secure financing for new opportunities such as alternative power projects or biofuel developments.

About Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP is a dynamic full-service law firm with market-leading strengths in the energy, financial services, real estate and technology sectors. Its lawyers serve clients throughout the United States and internationally, including from key global financial centers such as New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai. Industry-driven client teams and a multidisciplinary approach to crucial business issues of the day also ensure its clients receive thorough counsel on all aspects of a matter. The 2008 Corporate Counsel survey of in-house counsel at Fortune 500 companies named Pillsbury a "Go-To Firm" in six practice areas: corporate transactions, international, IP, litigation, labor and employment and securities.

Source: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (www.pillsburywinthrop.com)

For additional information, contact Tom Resau, PR manager, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, [email protected].

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of I+S Design, create an account today!