Environmentally Friendly Products: FTC’s Green Guides
A growing number of American consumers are looking to buy environmentally friendly, “green” products, from recycled paper to biodegradable trash bags. Companies have responded with “green” marketing touting the environmental benefits of what they’re selling. But sometimes what companies think their green claims mean and what consumers really understand are two different things. The Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides are designed to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that mislead consumers.
The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 and were revised in 1996 and 1998. The guidance they provide includes: 1) general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims; 2) how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and 3) how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
The FTC recently proposed an update of the Guides that is designed to make them easier for companies to understand and use. The proposed changes include new guidance on marketers’ use of product certifications and seals of approval, claims about materials and energy sources that are “renewable,” and “carbon offset” claims. The FTC accepted public comments on the proposed changes until December 10, 2010. It will now decide which changes to make final.