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Regulating greenwashing

March 1st, 2009 / By: / Graphics

While we appreciate efforts on behalf of our environment, nobody appreciates when a company spends more time and money claiming to be green than actually implementing green practices. As businesses and consumers get wind of this “greenwashing,” responsible companies will have greater difficulty convincing others of their sincerity.

The good news is that companies now have concrete means to back up their green claims with the Federal Trade Commission’s new Green Guides. The FTC wants green marketing claims, whether specific or implied, to be substantiated and qualified in a way consumers can understand. These regulations aren’t enforceable yet, but they are a benchmark for product manufacturers striving for environmental veracity.

In the textile world, the provenance of fibers can get murky. A blend of organic cotton and recycled polyester seems green—until it reaches the end of its life. The cotton can’t biodegrade because of the polyester content, and the polyester can’t be recycled because of the cotton content.

Third-party certification of environmental benefits can clear up the confusion. A number of organizations offer certification of products and processes.

Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certifies that textiles from raw materials through end product comply with prohibitions about use of harmful substances, both those regulated under law and those that cause potential adverse health impacts.

MBDC’s Cradle to Cradle Design protocol covers the entire supply chain and manufacturing processes, ensuring that environmentally sound practices are used throughout.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) applies to organic textile production, packaging, labeling and logistics, with two certification levels: “organic” textiles with at least 95-percent organic content and “made with x percent of organic materials” for textiles with 75 to 95 percent certified organic fibers.

Textile manufacturers can ensure their own environmental transparency, credibility and sustainability in the marketplace, and their customers can be sure they’re not being sold a green bill of goods. The Green Guides are available online at www.ftc.gov.

Janet Preus is associate editor of Specialty Fabrics Review, a publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International, and contributing editor for Fabric Graphics.

Information from a Dec. 18, 2008, Textile World article is included in this piece.

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