On October 6, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission released proposed revisions to the guidance it gives marketers to help them avoid making misleading environmental claims -- called the "Green Guides." The original Green Guides were introduced in 1998 and have not been updated since. Over the past 12 years, green marketing claims have increased dramatically, new environmental marketing terms have emerged, and concerns about greenwashing have grown.
“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.”
The changes to the “Green Guides” include new guidance on marketers’ use of product certifications and seals of approval, “renewable energy” claims, “renewable materials” claims, and “carbon offset” claims.
The FTC's press release also states:
The revised Guides caution marketers not to make blanket, general claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate.
Along with the 229-page text of the proposed revisions, the FTC also published a two-page Green Guide's Summary of Proposal and a webiste which contains links to additional information. The FTC is accepting comments on its proposed revisions to the Green Guides through December 10, 2010.