FTC’s New Green Guides For Making Environmental Claims

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Purpose of the Green Guides -

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently adopted revised Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides). The 2012 Green Guides, which modify a 1998 version, are not binding regulations but are intended as guidelines for companies making environmental marketing claims. The Green Guides are intended to “help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act.” The FTC notes that the revised Green Guides will help it evaluate environmental marketing claims and decide whether to use its statutory enforcement powers. Over the years, the FTC has brought several actions involving deceptive environmental marketing claims, and the revised Green Guides likely indicate areas that the Commission may focus on in the future.

General Principles For Acceptable Marketing Claims -

The Green Guides outline general principles that apply to any environmental marketing claims. They stress that all reasonable interpretations of environmental marketing claims must be truthful, must not be misleading, and must be supported by a reasonable basis. According to the FTC, “[i]n the context of environmental marketing claims, a reasonable basis often requires competent and reliable scientific evidence.” The Commission asserts that the Green Guides will help companies through this process by explaining how reasonable consumers are likely to interpret claims, describing the basic elements considered necessary to substantiate claims, and presenting options for qualifying a claim in order to avoid perceptions of deception. The Green Guides address claims about the environmental attributes of a product, package, or service, regardless of whether it is being marketed to individuals or in a notable clarification, in a business-to-business context.

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