FTC’s Updated ‘Green Guides’ Could Clamp Down on Greenwashing

Steps to mitigate greenwashing in the U.S. are underway.

With the news that the Federal Trade Commission will undertake a review of its “Green Guides” outlines for environmental marketing claims in 2022, fashion’s political activists are celebrating the little wins.

Last updated nine years ago (and first adopted in 1992), the Green Guides were initially designed to assist businesses in making lawful environmental marketing claims while helping the public navigate these claims. In a lapse between Americans’ sustainability values today, the FTC decided against guidelines on “sustainability” or “organic” in the Green Guides to avoid overlap with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program’s organic food guides.

Given that only 20 percent of consumers trust brand sustainability claims, advocates like PoliticallyInFashion (a political fashion coalition) began to crusade for change in the absence of government action.

“Much has changed in technology and consumer awareness in these past nine years since the Guides were revised. With a new Administration and Congress, the time is right for the FTC to undergo a review of this critical document,” said Hilary Jochmans, founder of PoliticallyInFashion.

Beginning in November, PoliticallyInFashion and Swedish-American denim brand Amendi joined forces to call for reform of the Green Guides. By April, the group drummed up support for a coalition letter to the FTC urging them to undertake a comprehensive review of the Green Guides saying “without guardrails on this term, or data to substantiate these claims, there is risk the term becomes meaningless, or even detrimental to efforts to promote healthy environmental practices.”

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“When we joined PoliticallyInFashion in the pursuit to have the Green Guides updated it spoke to exactly who we are as a brand, and what we believe the future of fashion will become: responsible to the earth and humane to people,” said Corey Page Spencer, cofounder of Amendi, adding that regulation is key to “catalyzing real change in the fashion industry.”

Since that initial effort, PoliticallyInFashion gathered 40 signatures from organizations such as Sustainable Brooklyn, Wearable Collections, The OR Foundation and New York University Stern School of Business Social Impact and Sustainability Association, among others.

This is not the first time efforts have culminated in a signed letter to decision-makers, calling for comprehensive action.

Brand activism has become a defining characteristic in the past year. In February 2021, journalist Elizabeth Segran sparked a wave in a letter of request to President Biden to appoint a “fashion czar,” a senior-level person who would “hold the industry responsible for its environmental and human rights violations”, which drew the support of Allbirds, Mara Hoffman and ThredUp.

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