The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will start reviewing its Green Guides next year, and its Jewelry Guides in 2028, the agency announced in the Federal Register earlier this month.
The Green Guides cover environmental claims and instruct marketers on how to discuss topics like sustainability, recycling, and carbon offsets.
In 2019, the FTC sent warning letters to eight lab-grown diamond and simulant companies, advising them that their advertising did not comply with the Green Guides. In particular, the FTC objected to “general environmental benefit claims,” like “eco-friendly” and “sustainable,” which it said lacked clear definitions.
Tiffany Stevens, president, CEO, and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), believes the industry must keep in mind that this revision is coming and begin thinking about what changes it would like to see.
“Until recently, the FTC was saying they did not intend to look at the Green Guides. But now they want to take that on.”
She notes the Green Guides will likely affect not just every product in the jewelry industry but every industry in America. JVC would like to get the trade on the same page as far as what it wants for from the revision.
“Every industry is going to be fighting over this,” she says. “We want to make sure that the jewelry industry is at the table and has a clear point of view on what will work for the industry, the environment, and the consumer.”
For that reason, the JVC hopes to hear from players in every segment of the trade.
“We hope to bring everyone to the table,” Stevens says, adding there will be plenty to discuss.
“The definition of ‘recycled’ will be interesting because it works differently in our industry than in others,” she says. “We don’t really have a definition of ‘sustainability.’ We want to start talking with people about what they want for their segment of the industry. Let’s figure out how to advocate for it and what kind of evidence we will need to back that up.”
The Green Guides were last revised in 2012. FTC reviews usually begin with working groups, followed by a public comment period. The process usually takes years. While the FTC has said this Green Guides review will commence in 2022, it hasn’t been more specific about when.
“They are saying they are going to open the gates next year,” Stevens says. “It could start in September. It could be any time.”
The FTC also plans to begin reviewing its Jewelry Guides, which are closely monitored by the industry, in 2028.
The last overhaul of those Guides was in 2018. It included a number of notable changes, such as the removal of thresholds for calling a product “gold” or “silver,” and tweaks on the verbiage allowed for lab-grown diamonds.
That revamp was the culmination of a review process that began in 2012. The six-year gestation period was unusually lengthy because the change in presidential administrations led to some empty FTC seats, which made final approval impossible, Stevens says. “The Jewelry Guides were kind of caught in the queue.”
Even so, that 2018 revision marked the Guides’ first major revision since 1996. It doesn’t look like the industry will have to wait quite so long for another update.
“The FTC has really been reinvigorated under the Biden administration,” Stevens says. “We are seeing a lot more activity.”
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