Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
Industry members have until Feb. 21, 2023, to offer public comment on the Green Guides, which are being revised by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Guides, first issued in 1992 and revised in 1996, 1998, and 2012, provide direction on environmental marketing claims such as “recycled content.” The Guides also reveal how consumers may interpret claims and how marketers can substantiate claims to avoid deceit. The FTC aims to update the Guides again based on increased consumer interest in purchasing 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,” notes Samuel Levine, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Most important for gemstone and cultured Pearl dealers is the additional information the Commission seeks—insights into consumer perception of organic and sustainability claims, including those not currently in the Guides.
According to Sara Yood, deputy general counsel at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), this public comment period is important for jewelers regarding the regulation of advertising terms. “Of particular interest are ‘recycled’ and ‘recycled content’ claims and the open questions posed by the request for comments, including whether ‘sustainable’ should be defined at all,” she explains.
Also important, she adds, is the “open question regarding the term ‘organic’ because some Pearl and Coral dealers refer to their products as ‘organic gems.’”
All industries have this opportunity to comment by the deadline. JVC is mobilizing a significant portion of its resources to make comments to ensure the jewelry perspective is heard.
The FTC points to a long list of recent court cases related to false environmental claims. One of the most recent is against Kohl’s Department Stores and Walmart for deceptive environmental claims about some of their products.
Public comments to date already include concerns about the term “sustainable.” One commenter suggested that these claims should have qualifications that are easy to find, while another insisted its use not be allowed to “describe a physical good or service.” More urged the FTC to investigate fraudulent uses of the word and to “provide a comprehensive definition of ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainably made or sourced’ claims.”
AGTA CEO John Ford is keenly aware of the need for uniform industry terms like “ethical,” “sustainable,” and “responsible,” and he plans to weigh in on these definitions during the FTC comment period and in a bigger way soon through the association.
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