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Federal Trade Commission Issues New Green Guides

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued its latest green guides, designed to ensure that the environmental claims made by marketers are truthful and non-deceptive. The industry and consumers have been waiting a long time for this latest up-date to guides which are essential for both businesses and people who want to be able to trust the eco claims made for the products they buy.

Federal Trade Commissionfaungg / CC BY-ND 2.0

The FTC’s summary covers marketing claims in the following areas:

  • General Environmental Benefit Claims
  • Carbon Offsets
  • Certifications and Seals of Approval
  • Compostable
  • Degradable
  • Free-of
  • Non-Toxic
  • Ozone-Safe and Ozone-Friendly
  • Recyclable
  • Recycled Content
  • Refillable
  • Made with Renewable Energy
  • Made with Renewable Materials
  • Source Reduction

There is an emphasis on precise and provable claims and significant caution against broad claims:

  • Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly.’ Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.
  • Marketers should qualify general claims with specific environmental benefits. Qualifications for any claim should be clear, prominent, and specific.
  • When a marketer qualifies a general claim with a specific benefit, consumers understand the benefit to be significant. As a result, marketers shouldn’t highlight small or unimportant benefits.

The guides are based on over 5,000 comments received by the FTC plus information gathered at public workshops and a study of how consumers perceive and understand environmental claims.  describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may or may not find deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act.  Under the FTC Act. the agency can take enforcement action against deceptive claims, which ultimately can lead to Commission orders prohibiting deceptive advertising and marketing and fines if those orders are later violated.

The FTC provides valuable resources for those who need to understand the guides in detail:

Environmental Claims – Summary of Green Guides

Video of Laura Koss, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC, explaining the Green Guides

Links to related Legal Documents and other information

and if you really need to get in deep:

Statement of Basis and Purpose

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