So What's So Bad About Green Washing?


On October 1, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) issued its revised “Green Guides.” The FTC first issued its Green Guides in 1992 to assist marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims. These guidelines were revised in 1996 and 1998, with proposed further revisions in October 2010 which culminated in the 2012 Guide. These guides are intended to give guidance related to misleading environmental claims about products, services or packaging that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (the “Act”).

While these guidelines do not have the force and effect of law, they provide guidance as to what claims the FTC will consider as deceptive. Over-selling the green attributes or “green washing” your products, services or materials may result in the FTC bringing enforcement action under the Act.

The 2012 Guide, by way of examples, gives guidance as to whether a label, logo, claim or other marketing signature is deceptive based on a reasonable consumer’s interpretation of the environmental claim. Determining the perceptions of a reasonable customer is no easy task.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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