FTC Seeks Public Comment on Revised Green Guides

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has offered its proposed revisions to the Green Guides and is accepting public comment through December 10, 2010. The suggestions include new guidance for marketers that are intended to curb misleading environmental claims like the use of product certifications and seals of approval and assertions about “renewable energy” and “carbon offset.”

In a quote on the FTC website, Chairman Jon Leibowitz says:

In recent years, businesses have increasingly used ‘green’ marketing to capture consumers’ attention and move Americans toward a more environmentally friendly future. But what companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things. The proposed updates to the Green Guides will help businesses better align their product claims with consumer expectations.

The FTC suggests that marketers steer clear of blanket claims about the use of renewable materials and energy. In addition, the FTC believes marketers ought to be more specific about the materials included in the product and disclose the emissions reduction on carbon offset claims.

“The headline issue is going to be no more unqualified green claims,” Ad Age quotes Chris Cole, attorney with Manatt Phelps & Phillips. “…You’re not going to be able to say ‘eco-friendly’ without saying … ‘based on the ability to recycle it.’ …That’s going to change practices a lot.”

The guides were first issued in 1992 with revisions made in 1996 and 1998. The FTC approved issuing a proposed revised Green Guides by a vote of 5-0. The FTC has come down hard recently on companies that it finds have used misleading marketing.