FTC Revising Green Marketing Guidelines

It seems that every new product these days portrays itself as green this or eco-friendly that – even if it isn’t. Some of the emails I receive touting products and services describe items that are pretty toxic as “green” based solely on a single aspect – for example, the product’s label is printed on recycled paper.

Greenwashing, the practice of exaggerating a product or service’s environmental value, is rampant. 

The situation hasn’t gone unnoticed by the USA Federal Trade Commission (FTC); which recently released proposed changes to crucial related green marketing guidelines.

The Commission proposes quite a few modifications and additions to “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims” to “help” marketers avoid making unfair or deceptive environmental marketing claims.

It’s certainly long overdue.. the Green Guides were released in 1992, and revised in 1996 and 1998.

The revisions take into account that consumer expectations have also increased as well. According to the FTC, in relation to broad terms such as environmentally friendly or eco-friendly: “Very few products, if any, have all of the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims.”

The proposed changes tighten up existing guidelines on making green claims, the use of environmental seals (some of which are just in-house certifications and worthless), and use of terms such as compostable, degradable, and recyclable. 

Others changes cover emerging claims not currently addressed in the Guides; such as renewable materials, renewable energy, and carbon-offsets.
Interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the changes, which need to be lodged before December 10, 2010. You can download the document, “Proposed Revisions To Green Guides” here; but prepare yourself for a lot of reading – 229 pages! Merchants should also take a look at them now as a heads-up.
Avoid being a victim of green marketing spin – pick up some tips on avoiding green washing.

Related: Organic food labeling