Banish Greenwashing From FTC Environmental Marketing Guide, PETA Says

For Immediate Release:
April 24, 2023

Contact:
Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Washington – PETA submitted a formal comment to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today following the agency’s solicitation of feedback on its guide to companies regarding environmental claims in marketing, pointing to the inherent unsustainability of leather, fur, silk, wool, cashmere, and reptile skins—which is contrary to many companies’ misleading claims to consumers.

PETA points to the facts that animals raised to be killed for clothing emit greenhouse gases, including methane; their urine and feces—along with toxic chemicals used to prevent their skin, wool, and fur from rotting—contaminate nearby soil and water; and forests, including the Amazon, are cleared to make room for grazing animals. Nevertheless, as the group advised the FTC, clothing manufacturers commonly make grossly deceptive sustainability claims:

  • Leather is a coproduct of the meat and dairy industries, and the pollution from its production is inseparable from theirs—but companies such as Latico misrepresent the leather they sell as a byproduct of the meat industry that causes no environmental harm of its own.
  • Compared to cotton production, that of wool uses approximately 367 times more land per bale, and converting land to pasture or farmland to grow food for sheep destroys natural habitats and increases soil erosion, desertification, and the risk of wildfires—but the wool industry deceives customers by promoting what it calls the “natural” properties of wool. Allbirds, for instance, markets its wool shoes as “regenerative,” yet its own sustainability report admits that the “regenerative agriculture” that produces the wool to make them has not yet had an impact on their carbon footprint.
  • Industry-sponsored studies confirm that illegal trade, primarily of reptiles, permeates the animal-skin market. Many animals are captured from nature, threatening biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and the very survival of many species—but false reports of captive breeding commonly conceal their actual origin. Ralph Lauren, for instance, was among a group of companies that had over 5,600 items—84% of which were made of reptile skins—seized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over a 10-year period, despite the company’s claims that it “remain[s] committed to ensure all species are sustainably sourced.”

“An overwhelming majority of consumers value environmental sustainability, but industries that kill animals and pollute the environment are pulling the wool over their eyes with unscrupulous greenwashing tactics,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA is urging the FTC to update its guidelines so that manufacturers can’t get away with dubious and sometimes outright false claims of sustainability.”

To avoid misleading consumers, PETA comments, claims about sustainability should include entire supply chains and real data on environmental footprints—not hypothetical data based on sustainability efforts that may or may not pay off in the future. Claims must also incorporate all of a product’s environmental impacts rather than cherry-picking one or two factors that make a product appear more sustainable than it is.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to wear”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind