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FTC releases updated Green Guides

By: Shawn Wright

October 1, 2012

WASHINGTON (Oct. 1, 12:45 p.m. ET) — The Federal Trade Commission today released its revised Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, also known as its “Green Guides.”

It’s the first time in 14 years that FTC has updated the Green Guides. The publication is intended to make sure consumers get accurate advertising.

The updates include new sections on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims, among others.

“The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and for producers who want to sell them,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “But this win-win can only occur if marketers’ claims are truthful and substantiated. The FTC’s changes to the Green Guides will level the playing field for honest business people and it is one reason why we had such broad support.”

FTC first introduced its guidelines in 1992 to address eight environmental marketing claims: general environmental benefit; degradable, biodegradable or photodegradable; compostable; recyclable; recycled content; source reduction; refillable; ozone safe; and ozone friendly.

The new Green Guides also contain new sections on “free-of” claims and “non-toxic” claims.

The guides are not agency rules or regulations. Instead, they describe the types of environmental claims FTC may or may not find deceptive.

There are more than 400 green certification systems and eco-friendly labels in a variety of industries, making it difficult to determine which company is “green” and which company is “greenwashing” — deceptive promotion of a company as environmentally friendly.