Environment & Natural Resources

On January 31, 2024, EPA Administrator Michael Regan signed two proposed rules related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and corrective action authority under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). These rulemakings follow from a 2021 announcement covered in a prior Crowell client alert, adding to the growing number of pending PFAS-related proposals submitted by EPA.Continue Reading EPA Continues to Push Toward Regulation of PFAS By Proposing Two More New Rules Under RCRA

Key Takeaways

  1. In 2023, the Department of Energy is likely to increase enforcement of its energy and water conservation standards.
  2. The penalties associated with violating energy and water conservation standards can exceed $500 per violation and result in multi-million-dollar penalties.
  3. Manufacturers and importers of appliances and other consumer and industrial products can mitigate enforcement risk by refamiliarizing themselves with the energy and water efficiency regime and conducting internal compliance audits.

As the Biden Administration enters its third year, now with a party split in Congress, it seems likely that the Administration will redouble its focus on executive branch regulatory tools that can be used to achieve energy-related policy objectives, including with respect to energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. For manufacturers and importers of appliances and certain other consumer, lighting, plumbing and commercial and industrial products, that means the potential for additional scrutiny of their products’ compliance with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) conservation standards for energy and water efficiency. It also likely means a commensurate increase in DOE enforcement activity for non-compliance with the applicable efficiency standards or the associated test procedures required to demonstrate compliance, as well as registration and labeling requirements. Given the magnitude of the penalties associated with violating efficiency standards, currently $503 per violation, which can quickly run into multiple millions of dollars across noncompliant units, manufacturers and importers should consider refamiliarizing themselves with DOE’s conservation standards regime.Continue Reading Appliance Manufacturers and Importers Should Prepare for Increased DOE Enforcement Activity in 2023

A new draft report to Congress by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on behalf of the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee cites textiles and the fashion industry as the leading sources of microfiber pollution in the environment. While the draft report acknowledges uncertainty about how microfiber pollution impacts the environment and human health, the report’s authors recommend that the textile and fashion industry—along with manufacturers of clothes washers and dryers and personal care products—design their products to prevent microfibers from being released into the environment.

The draft report was required to be developed pursuant to the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, enacted in 2020 on a bipartisan basis to address problems associated with marine debris and plastics in the ocean. It has been made available for public comment, which closes October 17, 2022.Continue Reading New Federal Report on Microfiber Pollution Spotlights Textile and Fashion Industries

In the article, “H&M class action: what lawyers told us”, featured in Apparel Insider, Partner Jason Stiehl commented on a recent class action complaint filed against H&M over its use of Higg Sustainability labels and its justification to charge premium prices for sustainable clothing. Stiehl provided insight on the importance to tighten internal systems

In the recent AdAge article, ESG Advertising Demands More Than Mere Legal Compliance, Chris Cole shares his thoughts on the five best practices for how companies advertise their ESG efforts:

  1. Advertise honestly about accurately measurable improvements
  2. Qualify with reference to metrics or uncertainty to put statement into context
  3. Use well-established standards for communication
  4. Do

Earlier this month, New York State Assemblywoman Kelles and State Senator Biaggi introduced the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act in the New York State Assembly and Senate. If the legislation becomes law, it would amend New York’s general business law to require fashion companies to publicly disclose extensive information about their environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) policies, impacts, and targets for improvement.

Specifically, the Act would require all fashion retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in New York that have annual worldwide gross receipts surpassing $100 million to disclose:

  • ESG due diligence policies and processes;
  • ESG outcomes, including actual or possible negative environmental and social impacts; and
  • Binding targets for prevention and improvement of ESG outcomes and policies.

Continue Reading Will New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act Set a Trend?

At the end of 2021, the California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling (the “Commission”) sent a letter to The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, also known as CalRecycle, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, asking them to investigate illegal labeling of plastic bags as recyclable by retailers. The Commission is alleging that businesses in the state are falsely implying that their bags are capable of being recycled through curbside collection with the “chasing arrows” logo and words such as “recyclable” and “recycle.” The Commission believes this labeling is impeding the curbside recycling process.
Continue Reading California Recyclability Labeling Scrutiny Poised to Increase Retailers’ Liability Risk

A recent survey of top decision-makers by Crowell & Moring finds that nearly 80% of responding companies have identified and adopted environmental performance goals beyond what regulations require. Fewer than half of those surveyed measure their company’s performance against those goals—and in some cases are experiencing challenges implementing them.

The survey of 225 respondents, including in-house counsel and compliance, ESG, and sustainability professionals, is detailed in a new report, “ESG Survey: Environmental Performance and the Stakes for Your Business.”

The report finds that 44% of respondents say their organizations are measuring their carbon footprint, and 13% are measuring their environmental impact on ethnically and racially diverse communities on an ongoing basis. Both are likely to be key areas of focus of the current U.S. administration’s regulatory and enforcement activities.
Continue Reading Crowell & Moring Survey Finds Companies Are Setting Environmental Goals, But Questions of Measurement Persist

Brussels – Whereas more than half of the EU consumer population is found to be receptive to green claims, only one-fifth appears to actually trust the sustainability claims made by brands. More and more, the market is realizing that “sustainability” is more than a buzzword and green claims should be substantiated by clear and transparent data. The reputation and trustworthiness of the brand can be at stake.
Continue Reading ESG in fashion (2) : the EU framework on greenwashing in the fashion industry

On November 2, 2021, Crowell & Moring attorneys Judith Bussé, Ryan MacFarlane, Nicole Janigian Simonia, and David Stepp will be presenting a webinar to address the top 5 ESG challenges and opportunities for international companies and organizations.

Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response. Global standards are vital in a number of areas to tackle the cross-border problems that many organizations face from forced labor issues, global initiatives, and disclosure requirements to greenwashing. Among the pressing issues are how plastic packaging and waste is regulated on a global level, how the recent EU initiatives apply to companies established outside of the EU territory, x, and x. Level-setting will need to go beyond what environmental, social and governance (ESG) basics address and so called “green” or sustainable investments that claim to pursue environmental goals will begin to see more scrutiny. Governments around the globe are working on numerous voluntary standards and a wave of new ESG regulation calls for more extensive and detailed corporate disclosures including that ESG risks are appropriately managed by third parties, such as supply chains and other business relationships.
Continue Reading Webinar: Top 5 ESG Challenges and Opportunities for International Companies and Organizations