The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on October 1, 2012 released the revised “Green Guides“, which is designed to help marketers with describing the environmental attributes of their products, so that advertising is truthful and non-deceptive within the meaning of the law.
Revising the Green Guides has taken many years. FTC employed a national effort to obtain public input and collect industry comments regarding the proposed revisions.
In conjunction with FTC’s Green Guides, the FTC has taken on the issue of defining carbon offsets, the use of green certification and seals, defining of renewable energy and renewable material claims.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has stated that “the introduction of environmentally friendly products in the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and producers who want to sell them. 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”.
It is interesting to note that these revised Green Guides fail to take on some of the more thorny issues. The FTC failed to provide guidance on the use of the terms “sustainable”, “natural”, and “organic”. The FTC has suggested that the term organic has already been sufficiently defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A review of FTC’s enforcement history indicates that they have brought claims for deceptive use of the terms; recyclability, and biodegradable. FTC has raised questions regarding the environmental certification program. Given the introduction of these new Green Guides, it is a clear indication that the FTC will increase enforcement activity in this area.
I have written on this topic before and the potential legal pitfalls for companies making environmental representations regarding their products. Careful consideration is necessary when using what I refer to as “eco-logos” as proof of the “greenness” of your company’s products. Given the significance of these issues several blog entries will be posted in the future on various key provisions of the revised Green Guides.