Not all products with environmentally friendly labels are as green as they seem, but the revised Green Guides, issued by the Federal Trade Commission, will steer advertisers in an honest direction with key rules to follow to reduce the risk of deceiving consumers.
As eco-conscious consumers turn to green products, companies are responding with a variety of products with eco-labels. Yet it’s often difficult for consumers to differentiate accurate advertising from deceptive claims made by product maker — known as greenwashing. Many consumers also do not have the resources or time to evaluate green claims.
Addressing these issues, the FTC revised its Green Guides to combat misleading advertising, which were first issued in 1992. The latest revisions, released this month, include four sections that can be used as a marketing blueprint for green: certifications and seals of approval, carbon offsets, free-of claims, non-toxic claims, made with renewable energy claims and made with renewable materials claims. In recent years, FTC said it has brought several actions related to “deceptive recyclability, biodegradable, bamboo and environmental certification.”
“The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and producers who want to sell them,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement.
A leading principle for businesses to follow is to pinpoint and specify which materials are green and to back up environmental promises with sound scientific evidence, said Laura Koss of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a video (below).
Additionally, marketers should avoid using broad, unqualified claims and should not imply significant environmental benefits if the production process is harmful or negligible. Marketers are advised to have scientific proof that a product or packaging will degrade within a year if they are advertised as “degradable.” These issues are addressed in the recently released book Greenwash: Big Brands and Carbon Scams, in which author Guy Pearse unravels a culture of corporate facade and reveals companies advertising false environmental claims.
Here is a video that summarizes the FTC’s Green Guides: