Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 FTC Workshop: Green Building and Textiles

On July 15, I attended the 2008 FTC Workshop: Green Building and Textiles in Washington, D.C.; this is the first of a series of reports about the presentations and discussions.

The purpose of FTC public workshops is to engage all the various stakeholders with a particular issue -- in this case "to examine developments in green building and textiles claims and consumer perception of such claims", as part of the FTC's review of its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, also known as the Green Guides . The Green Guides are intended for marketers and industry, but consumers will also find them interesting, because they articulate the information and language which can -- and can't -- be used in advertising and marketing consumer products.

The agenda and other information about the workshop is still available at the FTC website; I attended only the morning sessions, devoted to textiles. Panelists included representatives of U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Organic Exchange, Patagonia and Consumer Reports. In his opening remarks, William E. Kovacic, FTC Chairman, described the plight of the consumer seeking accurate information in today's green market as "standing under a giant waterfall with a teacup". The questions for the day: What claims are being made by advertisers of "green" products. How do consumers perceive them? What misleading practices have emerged since the publication of the current Green Guides? What revisions are needed to the existing Guides in order to ensure that consumers have the information they need?

The FTC is soliciting public comment on these questions; if you have something to say about green marketing claims on your clothing and household textiles, go to the Filing a Comment section on the conference website.

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