FTC Releases Final Guides for “Green” Marketing and Environmental ClaimsOctober 2012
After years of deliberation, the Federal Trade Commission this week released its final “Green Guides” for environmental benefit claims. FTC’s final Guides are similar to the “proposed” guides, which FTC released for public comment two years ago. But the final Guides include some important new recommendations and points of clarification.
General “Green” Or “Eco-Friendly” Claims
In the final Guides, FTC once again strongly discourages advertisers from making broad, unqualified environmental benefit claims. Unqualified “green” or “eco-friendly” claims, in FTC’s view, are highly susceptible to misinterpretation by consumers. To avoid potential confusion, advertisers should qualify environmental claims and explain, for example, that a product is “green” specifically because it is “made from recyclable material.”
One question FTC’s proposed Guides left unanswered was whether advertisers that want to make qualified environmental benefit claims must first conduct a “life-cycle analysis” – an analysis that attempts to estimate a product’s overall environmental impact based on its raw materials, manufacture, storage, distribution and disposal. FTC has now clarified that a life-cycle analysis is generally not required.
Rather, before making a qualified environmental claim, the FTC recommends that advertisers consider whether their products have any hidden environmental trade-offs. FTC warns that a qualified claim such as “green, made with recycled content” could be deceptive – even if the claim is literally true – if using recycled content results in an obvious environmental trade-off that outweighs the advertised benefit.
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