Global chemical industry publishes guidance on environmental footprints for products.

Ten global chemical companies and stakeholders have released guidance for the chemical sector on communicating a product’s environmental footprint using life cycle assessment (LCA) methods. Collaborating as a working group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the members developed the guidance document – titled Life Cycle Metrics for Chemical Products – with the objective of facilitating “improved sustainability across value chains” by communicating reliable information using a “common language.” The guidance is based on ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006 and sets out requirements covering topics including:

  • Footprint system boundaries: Product footprint studies should be cradle-to-grave, except for business-to-business products, which may use cradle-to-gate studies. Cradle-to-gate studies must include end-of-life impacts for all waste generated in production.
  • Defining the functional unit and reference flow: The functional unit must be consistent with the goal and scope of the study, and the duration of the functional unit must be specified for cradle-to-grave studies. Compared solutions shall be assessed on main functionality, technical quality (stability, durability, ease of maintenance), and additional functions rendered during use and disposal.
  • Impact categories, energy, and other flows: The guidance names certain models to use in characterizing impacts ranging from global warming to marine eutrophication to human toxicity and ecotoxicity. Energy flows, including cumulative energy demand, renewable energy consumption, and non-renewable energy consumption, must also be assessed and reported.
  • Data source requirements and quality management: Primary data (from specific operations in the studied product’s life cycle) should be “the most accurate available data,” including on-site measurements of aggregated consumed water, energy, and raw material, as well as continual air and water emissions.
  • Main methodological choices: The guidance provides a decision tree for choosing how to allocate environmental impacts for multiple products with different functions coming from the same system. Other methodological choices addressed include: attribution of recycling benefits; avoided emissions; bio-based carbon storage; carbon storage and delayed emissions; and land-use change.
  • Uncertainties of results: At a minimum, studies should include a qualitative description of uncertainties. Quantitative assessments of uncertainty based on Monte Carle simulations are optional.
  • Critical/peer review: Chemical product footprint studies must undergo peer review to assess consistency with the guidance. Externally published comparative claims must undergo “an external critical review by a panel of LCA experts.” All studies must include a statement specifying that the study was critically or peer reviewed and summarizing the review’s conclusions.

This guide is the third release from the WBCSD Chemical Sector’s “Reaching Full Potential” project, which previously released guidance for the chemical industry on accounting and reporting corporate greenhouse gas emissions and avoided emissions. Together, the Project’s publications seek to provide for “consistent and credible communication on how the value chains of chemicals impact on and contribute to sustainability.”

The working group is comprised of major companies like BASF, Eastman Chemical, Evonik, and Solvay, as well as Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council. The next step for the Reaching Full Potential project is to develop a guide for companies to assess social impacts and benefits of chemical products. Development of that guide is already under way, with release expected in late 2015.

EPA seeking feedback on new logo for Design for Environment label.

Yesterday, the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program announced two listening sessions to solicit public input as part of the process of redesigning the new logo for the voluntary product labeling program. Chemical-based products – like cleaning solutions and laundry detergents – bearing the DfE label must meet certain standards that exclude ingredients that have been identified as chemicals of concern. Four proposed design concepts for the new logo are posted online. EPA’s stated goals for the new logo are:

  • Better convey the scientific rigor of EPA’s product evaluation and the benefits to people and the environment with a label that is easier to display on products, materials, and in digital media;
  • Increase buyers’ recognition of products bearing EPA’s Safer Product Label; and
  • Encourage innovation and development of safer chemicals and chemical-based products.

E&E News reports that industry groups are concerned with the logo redesign, quoting American Chemistry Council president Cal Dooley at a conference earlier this year calling the DfE program “unprecedented” in terms of the label’s “potential for significant market implications.” Dooley also expressed doubt that DfE met the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides guidelines for private labeling programs.

EPA’s listening sessions will be held as webinars on August 4 and 5, 2014, from 1pm to 2pm Eastern Time; participants must register no later than August 1. Comments are also accepted on the DfE label website. According to the Federal Register announcement, although EPA “does not intend to formally respond to all comments that are submitted, EPA will consider the information gathered from this notice and other sources as it selects a new DfE logo.”

FTC brings enforcement actions for biodegradability claims.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced enforcement actions against six companies for misleading and unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims. Five of the enforcement actions concern biodegradability claims for plastics, while the sixth relates to a company’s alleged violation of a consent order prohibiting making green claims for its paper plates and bags. These actions follow FTC’s July settlements with three mattress manufacturers regarding unsupported “VOC-free” claims. Together, these cases demonstrate that the FTC highly prioritizes ensuring compliance with its revised Green Guides, the Commission’s guidelines for how companies should properly make environmental claims, and sheds some light on how FTC interprets some of the Green Guides’ provisions.

This marks the first time the FTC has addressed claims for biodegradable plastic. In the plastics matters, FTC has filed complaints and proposed consent orders against four companies that make various plastic products – ranging from golf tees to shopping bags – and a fifth, ECM Biofilms, which sells plastic additives to product manufacturers, including to two of the other companies targeted by the FTC. In addition to various charges of misrepresentation related to the biodegradability claims, ECM Biofilms is also charged with providing customers and distributors with the means to deceive consumers by issuing its own “Certificates of Biodegradability.” Under the proposed consent orders, the companies face no fines but are barred from making biodegradability claims that are unsupported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

Notably, the consent orders state that ASTM D5511, a test standard commonly used in the industry, cannot be used to substantiate unqualified biodegradability claims or claims beyond the parameters of the test. FTC appears to believe that ASTM D5511 does not simulate the conditions in landfills or other disposal facilities. The consent orders, like the Green Guides, require that unqualified biodegradability claims must be supported by evidence that the product will completely decompose into elements found in nature within one year after customary disposal. Qualified biodegradability claims must include certain appropriate caveats, such as the time period required for a product to completely decompose in a landfill or other disposal environment near where potential consumers live. The consent agreement packages are subject to public comment through November 29, 2013. According to Plastics News, all of the companies have agreed to the settlements except ECM Biofilms, which maintains that tests show that plastics made with its additives will biodegrade in environments mimicking landfills. FTC has scheduled a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge for ECM Biofilms in June.

In the sixth matter, FTC is seeking a $450,000 civil penalty against AJM Packaging Corporation, a manufacturer of paper products including plates, bags and napkins. The FTC’s complaint charges that AJM violated a 1994 consent order by failing to properly substantiate claims that its products were biodegradable, compostable, and/or recyclable.  The settlement with AJM vacates the prior consent order and enters a new one reflecting the updates to the Green Guides and requiring AJM to disclose certain information needed to qualify certain green claims.

FTC Publishes Revised Green Guides

Green Marketing:

On October 2, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published long-awaited revised guidelines, known as the Green Guides, to aid marketers in properly making environmental benefit claims.   The FTC released its final revisions after a multiyear investigatory process, which included marketing surveys as well as reviewing comments from companies, trade organizations, government entities and individuals.  The the Green Guides lack the force of law, they provide guidance on how to avoid false or misleading environmental marketing claims in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

Below is a short summary of some of the major changes contained within the final revisions.

Highlights of the Newly Revised Green Guides

General Environmental Benefit Claims: The Green Guides caution against making general environmental benefit claims, such as using the words “green” or “eco-friendly,” without stating the basis for and qualifying these terms. The qualifying information must be clear, prominent and available at the point of sale—so consumers are able to see it before making their purchasing decisions.

Carbon Offsets: Marketers should use competent and reliable scientific evidence and comprehensive accounting methods to support their claims. However, an offset claim is inappropriate if the activity that makes the basis of the claim is required by law. If the offset purchase will pay for an emission reduction that will not occur for at least two years, then marketers are encouraged to disclose this information.

Certifications and Seals of Approval: The Green Guides also make recommendations for certifications and seals of approval used for endorsements. Marketers are encouraged to use environmental certifications or seals that convey the basis for the certification, but if these are not available, then they should clearly identify the product’s specific environmental benefits. Marketers are also encouraged to disclose their material connections with certifying organizations and must verify all express and implied claims when using third-party certification.

Compostable or Degradable:   “Compostable” claims must be based on competent and reliable scientific evidence, showing that product or packaging materials will become usable compost. Marketers should qualify if the product is not able to be composted in a safe or timely fashion. “Degradable” claims do not have to be qualified if the product or package can completely break down within a reasonably short amount of time, typically one year.

“Free-Off”:  “Free-of” claims can be made if the product contains trace amounts, background levels or less of the substance; the substance was not intentionally added to the product; and the amount contained with the product will not cause the type of harm linked to the substance.  The final revision differs from the standard articulated in the draft revision, and it will certainly create challenges for marketers.

 Non-Toxic:  For “non-toxic” claims, marketers should employ competent and reliable scientific evidence showing that the product is safe for people and the environment, unless otherwise qualified.  A product might be considered “non-toxic” under certain agency regulations designed to protect human health, but those regulations might not ensure protection for the environment.

Ozone-Safe:  Marketers are cautioned against misrepresenting that a product is safe for the atmosphere or ozone layer because the FTC finds that these can be unqualified general environmental benefit claims.

Recyclable and Recycled Content: The Green Guides also provide guidance regarding “recyclable” and “recycled content” claims. Recyclable claims should be qualified if recycling facilities are unavailable to 60 percent of consumers or communities to whom manufacturers sell a product. Recycled content refers to material recovered or diverted from waste during manufacturing or post-consumer use. Marketers are advised to qualify claims for products or packaging constructed partly from recycled material and specify the amount of partly recycled material contained therein. In addition, qualified claims should be made for products containing used, reconditioned or remanufactured parts.

Refillable: Marketers should not make unqualified “refillable” claims unless they identify a method to refill the product.

Renewable Materials and Energy : With claims like “made with renewable materials or energy,” the guides provide that marketers should qualify claims with specific information about the renewable materials used, such as what the renewable material is, how it is sourced and what qualifies it as renewable. Also, the Green Guides specify that marketers should qualify claims of renewable energy by specifying the source (e.g., wind or solar). If the power used to manufacture the product or any component of the product comes from fossil fuels, a renewable energy claim is inappropriate unless renewable energy certificates are purchased to link with energy use.

Source Reduction:  Finally, “source reduction” claims should be qualified with the amount of reduction and the basis for comparison from which the claim is made (e.g., “30 percent less runof f than our earlier model”).

 “Sustainable” and “Organic” Are Not Addressed:   The final revisions offer no guidance on claims regarding “sustainability” and whether a product is “organic.” The FTC claims that it lacks a sufficient basis or context to provide guidance on these claims because these terms have numerous meanings among consumers. However, the Green Guides caution marketers from making these types of claims without impunity.

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The complete final revisions to the FTC’s Green Marketing Guides are available here.   Additional information is also available on the FTC’s dedicated website

Environmental Advocates Want Disclosure of Chemicals in Consumer Products

Chemicals in Consumer Products:

Researchers at the Silent Spring Institute argue that the findings of their consumer product evaluation illustrate the need for full disclosure of ingredient information. The Institute tested consumer products — ranging from toothpaste to laundry detergent — for compounds identified as either endocrine disruptors or asthma-related. Most products evaluated by the Institute included one or more “chemicals of concern.”  In their report, the researchers emphasize that current chemical testing and product labeling requirements do not prevent the use of hormone disruptors or asthma-associated chemicals in products or provide enough information for consumers to avoid them. Silent Springs published its findings in the March 8, 2012 issue of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Environmental Health Perspectives.  The report has proven highly controversial and been severely criticized by industry for a flawed methodology and equating the mere presence of a chemical in a product with a lack of product safety.

The Institute, and other environmental and public health advocates, clearly plan to use the report to support their arguments for robust reforming of TSCA, the primary federal statute for regulating chemicals in the United States.  Such advocates argue that many consumer products contain chemicals known to adversely affect human health. They note that for numerous common commercial chemicals, information about their presence in consumer products is limited. In particular, little information is available about hazardous chemical exposures from personal care and cleaning products.

The Institute found 55 chemicals of concern in conventional and “green” consumer products. The evaluation assessed consumer products for the presence of 66 known endocrine disruptors and asthma causing chemicals. Tested consumer products ranged from toothpaste to laundry detergent. The researchers found bis-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, diethanolamine, and glycol ethers in high concentrations. They found phthalates, monoethanolamine, alkylphenols, parabens, and cyclosiloxanes in many of the products.  Sunscreens and scented products such as air fresheners and dryer sheets contained both the largest number of target chemicals and some of the highest chemical concentrations. However, the Institute did not report whether these chemicals were present above limits setting safe levels of exposure.  For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends diethanolamine exposure be limited to 3 parts per million.

The researchers allege that regulations require only limited product labeling, thereby limiting the information available to consumers.  Personal products such as sunscreens, deodorants, and anti-bacterial hand soaps are largely regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the FDA. FDA regulations mandate only that “active” ingredients be identified on product labels.  The Institute asserts that EPA has primary regulatory oversight of cleaning products, and only when these products are pesticide products (e.g., products that will kill bacteria and viruses) is active ingredient labeling required. Many consumer products call themselves “natural,” “non-toxic,” and “green;” however, the Institute contends that these terms are unregulated and the chemical contents of such products do not necessarily differ from comparable products.

The Institute also argues that gaps in ingredient information are also problematic for regulators.  It argues that EPA, for example, relies on ingredient concentrations in products for exposure modeling. 

And lastly, the researchers conclude that further study of the risks posed by the types of chemical mixtures that are found in personal care products, cleaning products, etc. are needed to understand their effects on human health.

US News, Forbes, Consumer Reports, and many other news outlets have published stories on this report.

Phil Moffat Will Speak About Green Marketing at the 2011 ASC Fall Conference and Expo

Green Marketing:

Verdant is pleased to announce that Philip Moffat will speak at the 2011 ASC Fall Conference and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 16 – 18.  Phil will discuss marketing and enforcement trends, the tools available to regulate green marketing in the U.S. and elsewhere, and the legal risks attending the marketing of “sustainable” packaging or other “green” products for which universally accepted metrics and definitions are lacking.  

More information about the Fall Conference and Expo is available here.  A copy of the presentation is available here.

EPA Launches Green Products Web Portal for Pollution Prevention Week

Sustainable Products/Green Marketing:

This week is Pollution Prevention Week.  And to help celebrate the Week, EPA has announced the launch of a new portal to help consumers find so-called “Greener Products.”   The tool is intended to provide consumers information about everyday products, enabling them to identify those that require less energy or water, or use safer chemicals.  The Agency’s announcement is embedded below.  The portal is accessible here.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is observing Pollution Prevention (P2) Week (September 19-25, 2011) by launching a new tool designed to provide Americans easy access to information about everyday products like home appliances, electronics and cleaning products that can save money, prevent pollution and protect people’s health. The new green products web portal is available at www.epa.gov/greenerproducts

This week serves to recognize significant pollution prevention work around the country and help  consumers get involved in pollution prevention. EPA’s new green products web portal is an easy way for all Americans to learn about products that prevent pollution and protect our environment.

Using the new tool, consumers can find electronics and appliances that have earned EPA’s Energy Star label and can browse WaterSense products that help save energy and water. Additionally, consumers can find information about cleaning products that are safer for the environment and people’s health. These products bear the EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) label. The website will also help manufacturers and institutional purchasers with information on  standards and criteria for designing  greener products.

“By purchasing greener products, consumers can help reduce air pollution, conserve water and energy, minimize waste and protect their children and families from exposure to toxic chemicals, while also creating green jobs,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, “Pollution Prevention is good for our health, our environment and our economy.”

Join the EPA in marking P2 Week this week, and help prevent pollution every day. More information on pollution prevention, P2 Week, and EPA’s P2 programs: http://epa.gov/p2/

Philip Moffat Will Speak About Sustainable Packaging at the 2011 ASC Sustainability Summit

Sustainable Products/Green Marketing:

Verdant is pleased to announce that Philip Moffat will speak at the 2011 ASC Sustainability Summit in Rosemont, Illinois (O’Hare) on July 26 – 27.  Mr.  Moffat will discuss green marketing and enforcement trends, the tools available to regulate green marketing in the U.S. and elsewhere, and the legal risks attending the marketing of “sustainable” packaging in the absence of universally accepted metrics and definitions.

The Adhesive and Sealant Council (ASC) and ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society of Testing and Materials) are co-sponsoring the event.  Representatives from well-known organizations such as Dow Corning, John Deere, HP Fuller, the America Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Initiative, USEPA, and many others will be presenting on timely topics ranging from Green Chemistry to Green Marketing.  A copy of the preliminary agenda is set out below.  The conference brochure is available here.


Tuesday, July 26

Keynote Speaker………………………………………………………………….8:00 – 8:45 am
Dr. Bob Peoples, ACS

Adhesive Panel Discussion (focused on transportation)…………….8:45 – 10:15 am
Moderator: Sandra Niks, ASTM

Sealant Panel Discussion (focused on building construction)…….10:30 am – Noon
Moderator: Ken Yarosh, Dow Corning

Lunch Keynote Speaker……………………………………………………….Noon – 1:00 pm
FEICA – The EU’s perspective on sustainability
in the adhesive and sealant space

Adhesive Panel Discussion (focused on packaging)……………………1:15 – 2:45 pm
Moderator: John Kalkowski, Packaging Digest Magazine

Break Out Session – Adhesives………………………………………………3:30 – 4:30 pm

Break Out Session – Sealants…………………………………………………3:30 – 4:30 pm

Tour of a LEED Silver Building………………………………………………..4:30 – 5:45 pm

Reception…………………………………………………………………………..6:00 – 7:00 pm

Wednesday, July 27

Adhesives Group Key Findings……………………………………………….8:00 – 8:45 am
Presented by Adhesives Group Leader

Sealants Group Key Findings………………………………………………….8:45 – 9:30 am
Presented by Sealants Group Leader

ASTM Future Initiatives & Roadmap………………………………………9:45 – 10:00 am

ASC Future Educational Initiatives ………………………………………10:00 – 10:15 am

Closing Keynote Session……………………………………………………10:30 – 11:30 am
Rik Master, USG Corp.