FTC Releases Revised Green Guides

For the first time in 12 years, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has released an update on its “Green Guides” guidance for environmental marketing and claims.

Originally released in 1992, and last updated in 1998, the Green Guides provide guidance for advertisers and marketers in the green space and warn against making broad claims, such as that a product is “eco-friendly,” if the company cannot provide supporting documentation.

“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,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “The proposed updates to the Green Guides will help businesses better align their product claims with consumer expectations.”

More specifically, the Green Guide advises on topics including:

  1. general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims;
  2. how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and
  3. how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.

The proposed guides, released last Wednesday, are more stringent than the previous guidance and address sustainability-specific terms, like carbon offsets, that simply were not part of the lexicon a decade ago. Although the guides are not rules, they provide FTC with a baseline to bring false or misleading advertising claims against violators.

Public comments are welcome until December 10, 2010. The new guidance is expected to be released mid-2011.

For more information:

Please also feel free to contact Steve O’Day if you have any questions about the Green Guides and how they impact your business.

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