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FTC Issues Revised 'Green Guides' for Product Marketing

Nov 07, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission last month issued revised “Green Guides” that are designed to help marketers ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of products are truthful and not deceptive. They include updates to the existing Guides, as well as new sections on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims.

The Guides are not agency rules or regulations; instead, they describe the types of environmental marketing claims the FTC may or may not find deceptive. The revisions reflect a wide range of public input from consumers and industry, including IDFA, on previously proposed revisions.

Revisions to Previous Guidance

Among other modifications, the Guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirmed that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. FTC believes few products have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making them nearly impossible to substantiate.

The Guides also:

  • advise marketers not to make an unqualified degradable claim for a solid waste product unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after disposal;
  • caution that items destined for landfills, incinerators or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so marketers should not make unqualified degradable claims for these items; and
  • clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims.

New Sections

The Guides contain new sections on certifications and seals of approval, carbon offsets, free-of claims, non-toxic claims, made with renewable energy claims, and made with renewable materials claims.

One section explains that certifications and seals may be considered endorsements that are covered by the FTC’s Endorsement Guides and includes examples that illustrate how marketers could disclose a “material connection” that might affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement. The section also tells marketers not to use environmental certifications or seals that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification.

Consumer and Business Education

 The FTC also released business and consumer education resources designed to help users understand the Guides.

For more information, contact Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, at cdetlefsen@idfa.org, or Michelle Matto, IDFA consultant on nutrition and labeling, at amfoodnutrition@gmail.com.

 
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