Submission Number: 00222
Received: 12/10/2010 1:19:52 PM
Commenter: Sam Moore
Organization: Hohenstein Institute
State: North Carolina
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims; Project No. P954501
Attachments: No Attachments
Comments submitted to FTC in response to request for comments 16 CFR Part 260
From: Samuel B. Moore, Ph.D. Managing Director of Hohenstein Institutes America, Inc.
Hohenstein Institutes America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Forschungsinstitut Hohenstein GmbH & Company KG, Germany, located at 1688 Westbrook Ave., Burlington, NC 27215. Dr. Moore can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 336.269.0959. Hohenstein Institutes is one of the founding members of the Oeko-Tex® Association (www.oekotex.com), which manages one of the largest third-party voluntary accreditations for textile products. Oeko-Tex® certified products are designated “Tested for Harmful Substances according to Oeko-Tex® Standard 100” and are labeled and marked as such. The certification process, test methods and labeling standards are rigorous and transparent. The standard has been in existence since the early 1990’s.
As noted in recorded comments from testimonies in various FTC sponsored workshops and within comments from CPSC commissioners, Oeko-Tex® is recognized as being an international third-party certification system for textiles that has a rigorous analytical verification and substantiation of all claims. As an indication of the success of our processes and programs, there are nearly 100,000 Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 product certifications throughout the world. Many are being used as compliance documents for various international regulations and national safety requirements such as CPSIA in the USA and REACh in the EU. This indicates that consumers, retailers, manufacturers and government agencies accept that Oeko-Tex® third-party certifications and labels communicating that textile products have been rigorously tested for harmful substances, are valuable tools for building value and security within the textile value chain.
The Value of Third-Party Certifications for Textile materials
A prudently run certification system, which includes rigorous science-based validation of data and transparency in all processes plus compliance with regulations, acts as a standard that stands in defense of global consumer expectations for quality and safety. OEKO-TEX® certifications transcend national boundaries, producing global, uniform performance for manufacturing and product safety. Oeko-Tex® promotes equity, transparency, and uniformity and is kept current to national and international regulations through a formal, bi-annual review process. This produces a global standard that builds an expectation for continuous improvement and a constant “greening” of textile production processes, in spite of differences in national regulations. Markets have “flattened”, with production occurring anywhere in the world, but a uniform international regulatory structure, remains somewhere in the future, leaving third-party standards as the only avenue to transcend differences in national regulations which can lead unfair trade practices at the expense of product safety and inequity in utilization of the global environmental commons.
A reoccurring theme in FTC’s request for comments on the Green Guides addresses the ambiguity in terms being used for marketing purposes. This ambiguity in terms such as “greening, sustainability, safe, etc” is allowing “green washing” and other fraudulent claims. The challenge is that the common vernacular and development of concepts in this area of “green-ness” are in a continuous state of flux and are ill defined and understood. For example, there is a good solid definition of “sustainable development” that was produced in 1987 by the Brundtland commission, but as this new paradigm has evolved over time, the meaning has also changed and deepened in many respects, leaving consumers to wonder where the real targets and meanings are. Ideas and concepts that seem simple to define initially become more complex and specialized as they develop.
We believe that the lack of defining criteria for FTC support of third-party accreditations slows down the market-based drive towards improving product safety, environmental and social performance. If third-party accreditations are viewed positively by the FTC, they should clearly say so and produce solid criteria about how they will be judged and the value of these accreditations.
There are some important terms that should be clearly defined by the Green Guides. The changes and improvements suggested for adoption are a big improvement over earlier editions. However, there remain many gaps and a lack of definitive guidance on many important terms and concepts which will perpetuate ambiguity.
There is some information from consumer surveys in the EU that may be interesting to the FTC in addressing the questions in Section VII. While Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 labeling has been prevalent in Europe from almost 20 years, in the U.S. labeling with the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 has only just begun. As retailers begin to promote the usage of this label, we expect American consumers to quickly become as educated as European consumers as to the benefits of “tested for harmful substances”. In essence, the European consumer survey is a look into our future here in the United States.
Phone surveys and street interviews were conducted by a private survey firm for the Oeko-Tex® Association, in 2008. Opinions on consumer behavior for textile products within the EU (7 countries), produced the following conclusions about Labels and Certification of textile and apparel items-
• The most important aspects within the buying process of clothing and textiles were: product quality, social aspects of production, skin kindness and “tested for harmful substances”.
• For three-fourth of the interviewees, the aspect “tested for harmful substances” is (very) important.
• The question: “In your opinion, are more certified and labeled products and articles required in the marketplace? ”On the average of all seven nations used in this survey, 79% answered with a clear “yes”. This indicates that European consumers are looking for more guidance and clarity on safety and sustainability issues and that labels and certifications are becoming more important.
• The relevance of “Tested for Harmful Substances”, within the order process is regarded as high by the most interviewees. On the average of all seven nations, 54% anticipate an increasing importance.
• The main source of information for consumers on textile products and in business to business textile transactions, are communications with producers. By far, the internet is the most important means for gathering information in addition to labels.
• 2/3rds of all persons interviewed would like more information about the labels and certifications. The interviewees recognized several of the textile labels, with Oeko-Tex® being most highly recognized.
The anticipated changes in the Green guides are necessary and show good improvements from earlier editions.
There remains ambiguity which will leave opportunities for misuse of “green” in the marketplace. The FTC revision misses the opportunity to strengthen the role of third party certifications that could accelerate increased safety and greening of supply chains by market mechanism. Market-based mechanisms are the most rapid way to achieved desired changes. Consumer surveys in Europe indicate that such certifications are playing a key role in consumer decision-making that would allow market mechanisms to accelerate the greening of the marketplace.
An endorsement of third party certifications and a clear framework of quality standards for third-party certification systems which include stringent verification of results could reduce litigation and clarify performance vectors for consumers.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment.