(WASHINGTON) Pepsi is the nation’s top purchaser of renewable energy certificates (RECs), reported Lori Bird of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the January 8 Federal Trade Commission “Eco in the Market” public workshop in Washington, D.C. Joining Pepsi among the top 20 purchasers of RECs are Wells Fargo, Johnson & Johnson, Kohls and Staples.
When it comes to advertising their environmental stewardship, companies will see increased scrutiny of their green claims and how they tell their stories. Bird pointed to Silk soy milk as an example of a company that promotes its RECs purchases on its packaging.
“What the headline giveth, the footnote cannot taketh away,” said Lesley Fair of the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education.
Attended by hundreds, the workshop was the first of several to come as the FTC begins a regulatory review of its environmental marketing guidelines, or “Green Guides,” which were issued in 1992 and last updated in 1998. The initial workshop focused on carbon offsets and RECs, which are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by allowing purchasers to counterbalance their environmental footprint by funding new projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Dubbed “the wild west” and a “chaotic” by Katherine Hamilton of Ecosystem Marketplace, the U.S. carbon offset market has grown dramatically since 2005 while environmental marketing claims have gone relatively unchecked. The carbon market in the U.S. is considered voluntary since there is no mandatory cap on carbon emissions. According to Hamilton, the U.S. carbon offset market is $91 million in the U.S. versus $30 billion globally. However, she said the U.S. market is expected to quadruple within the next five years.
“The big takeaway from today is that while the terms are flying fast and furious, there’s not a lot of consensus about what people are really getting from their offsets,” said workshop attendee Steve Roberts of EnviroMedia Social Marketing, who was in Washington to launch a new Web site that allows consumers to post samples of real green ads and rate them according to criteria developed by advertising academicians (www.greenwashingindex.com).
Said EnviroMedia CEO Valerie Davis: “While many questions remain unanswered related to carbon offsets and associated marketing claims, themes throughout the day were that the market needs consistent standards, the assurance of real carbon reductions, and conservation incentives. We also saw carbon market stakeholders begging for standards and guidelines at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali last month.”
The FTC is accepting public comments on its Green Guides through February 11. To submit comments, visit https://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-GreenGuidesReview/