Tuesday, October 02, 2012

FTC Revises “Green Guides” for Environmental Marketing Claims

This posting was written by Jeffrey May. Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

Marketers should not make broad, unqualified environmental claims, such as "green" or "eco-friendly," for their products, according to the FTC’s recently revised "Green Guides." The agency’s guides for environmental marketing claims, among other things, encourage marketers to qualify general environmental benefit claims, limiting such claims to a specific benefit or benefits.

The agency released the revised guidance on October 1, nearly two years after the proposed changes were published for public comment. The revised guides take into account nearly 340 unique comments and more than 5,000 total comments received, according to the agency.

The revised guides have a new section devoted to the use of certifications and seals of approval to communicate environmental claims. The agency emphasizes that certifications and seals may be considered endorsements that are covered by the FTC’s Endorsement Guides (CCH Trade Regulation Reporter ¶39,038), and includes examples that illustrate how marketers could disclose a “material connection” that might affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement.

In addition, the Green Guides caution marketers not to use environmental certifications or seals that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification, because such seals or certifications are likely to convey general environmental benefits.

In addition, there is new guidance on "renewable energy" claims, "renewable materials" claims, "non-toxic" claims, "free-of" claims, and "carbon offset" claims. Marketers are expected to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims. Moreover, claims should be qualified as necessary to avoid confusion. For instance, marketers should qualify renewable materials claims unless an item is made entirely with renewable materials.

The agency also provides some clarification to existing provisions addressing claims related to compostability, degradability, recyclability, and recycled content. For instance, the agency suggests that marketers qualify recyclable claims when recycling facilities are not available to at least 60 percent of the consumers or communities where a product is sold.

“The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and for producers who want to sell them,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, announcing the guides. “But this win-win can only occur if marketers’ claims are truthful and substantiated. The FTC’s changes to the Green Guides will level the playing field for honest business people and it is one reason why we had such broad support.”

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