The Green Guides: What Are They and Why Do They Need Updating?

Imagine a set of rules and laws that would protect us from falling for greenwashed products. I just felt a big weight being lifted off my shoulders 😅 It sounds like a dream. But this dream is closer to reality thanks to some leaders in the industry making waves on the outdated Green Guides. AMENDI and PoliticallyInFashion have joined forces to curb the rise of greenwashing by pushing the Federal Trade Commission to update the Green Guides. So what are the Green Guides, and what do we need to do about updating them?


Thanks to Hilary Jochmans of PoliticallyInFashion for creating the Green Guides 101 (take a deeper look here) and has perfectly summarized the what for us.

WHAT ARE THE GREEN GUIDES?


“They are a resource to help businesses avoid making deceptive environmental claims. The Guides were originally created in 1992 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an agency empowered by federal law to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts in business. They are to assist businesses in making lawful environmental marketing claims and the public in understanding and appreciating these statements. The FTC can bring an enforcement action if they see an environmental claim that is inconsistent with the Guides, unfair and deceptive.”

Basically, laws protecting us from “intellectual terrorism” in the words of Maurizio Donadi and also known as green washing. BUT, these guides don’t include the terms “sustainable,” “natural,” and “organic,” among many others that have entered the buzzword scene making it impossible for consumers to know what is right and what are lies.

That's why AMENDI and PoliticallyInFashion have partnered to approach the Federal Trade Commission for a much needed update to properly fight against greenwashing.

I had the absolute pleasure of asking Corey, co-founder of AMENDI, a few questions about how the update would create tangible change and how we can all support this initiative best.


Catch our chat below!

HOW DOES THE FASHION INDUSTRY USE THE GREEN GUIDES?

Perhaps it’s more appropriate to phrase the question “How do the Green Guides work in the Fashion industry?” Technically, The Green Guides are supposed to help businesses understand what is appropriate and not appropriate when marketing “green” products. The Green Guides are intended to regulate all industries that operate in the United States, but are rarely used to regulate the fashion industry. This is generally because oil, gas, and food industries have been primary targets for enforcing anti-trust law violations via the Green Guides. I’ve worked in fashion for over a decade and had never heard of The Green Guides until I read an article by Elizabeth Cline called “Can We Stop Greenwashing” where Hilary Jochmans at PoltiicallyInFashion spoke about them, which is how our partnership coalesced. Most laws you run into when running a business have to do with intellectual property, trademark, etc. Perhaps that gives an idea for how subdued or toothless the regulations currently are for fashion. You can basically ignore them. For instance, when we were building AMENDI’s Fabrication Facts tag we realized there was almost no laws preventing us putting whatever information we wanted on the tags---we could essentially lie without any repercussions. That’s one reason why the Guides became so important to us—any brand can use the words: “sustainable,” “ethical,” “eco-friendly” without providing any evidence of their efforts. To us, that not only violates basic ethics and perpetuates fashion’s biggest problems, it’s also just not fair to those businesses who are trying to do better—and since the FTC lists one of their primary missions as “promoting fair competition” –updating the Green Guides to be more effective seems obvious.

AS A BRAND OWNER, WHERE DO YOU SEE THE NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT MOST?

AMENDI is a moniker for “amendments.” When my partners, Andreas and Julia Ahrman, and myself started AMENDI we didn’t want a brand that only went for innovative sustainable methods or donation-style social impact (buy X and X% goes to X charity). We felt that wasn’t enough anymore. We believe that sweeping legislative change on an international scale is needed to stop the monster that is the fashion industry, and to get even close to curbing the worst of climate change. That’s why we started this campaign “Legislate Fashion.” But it’s also more than that – sustainability is not, and never has been, only about the environment. Sustainability includes overlapping dimensions including: environment, society, and economics. In fashion we tend to focus mostly on the environment – but these other dimensions are equally as important in the long term goals of real sustainability. For AMENDI, the Green Guides are just the beginning. Our mission is to grow and address as many aspects of each dimension of sustainability we can.

DO YOU THINK AN UPDATE WOULD TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY SINCE BRANDS WON’T BE ABLE TO HIDE BEHIND BLANKET TERMS? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE INDUSTRY ONCE THEY ARE UPDATED?

I believe it could! First, we need the FTC to acknowledge and agree that they will make updates to the Guides. Last time it took 2 years for the Guides to be fully updated after the FTC agreed to an update. It’s a long and serious process. But I believe in the power of people’s collective voice. As long as energized and genuine voices inside and outside the industry unite around this issue and continue to stay engaged when the updates happen, then real legitimate changes can be put in place that will make it hard for businesses to blatantly lie about their products. It will cause brands to second guess about how they market “sustainability.” I hope it encourages them to become more transparent and show and share with their customers what they’re doing to be better, more conscientious entities.

I always say that marketing “sustainability” should be a short blip in time. “Sustainability marketing” is kind of absurd—it says: “hey, we are destroying the planet and exploiting at-risk communities less while making products that probably don’t need to exist –want some?” Liz Rickets from the OR Foundation (please donate to them!) said it well to me in a conversation we had the other day – Fashion is costuming. It’s supposed to be a form of art and expression. The fact that late-stage capitalism has tainted what fashion is supposed to be is painful on many levels. So, I think the sustainable fashion movement is ultimately a fight to protect the “art” of fashion. No one wants to lose what fashion means to them, and I think people don’t think hurting other people and the environment is worth it just to be “fashionable.” So regulation is “the people” saying: we still want fashion but without causing human pain and undue strain on the Earth. Now it’s just time for brands and businesses to listen and evolve to make it happen. Regulation makes it happen faster. 😊

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO AN INDIVIDUAL THAT WANTS TO HELP?

I would say first read the Green Guides 101 you linked to above and then please sign the petition here and share it with as many friends as possible. The more signatures we get, the more serious the FTC will take the issue!

If you are itching to help and support this initiative like me, let’s hop on these first calls to action:

  • Read Hilary Jochman’s ‘Green Guide 101’ here

  • Follow @amendiofficial and @politicallyinfashion for updates

  • Sign up for the Amendi newsletter for next steps

  • Sign the petition here

Until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT!