FTC’s update on environmental marketing claims



After 12 years of no significant developments on its environmental marketing guidelines, the Federal Trade Commission has finally proposed an amendment – one that will have significant impact on how green businesses communicate their benefits.

Most relevant amendments:

1. Marketers should not make unqualified general environmental benefit claims. They are difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate.

2. Qualifications should be clear and prominent, and should limit the claim to a specific benefit. Marketers should ensure the advertisement’s context does not imply deceptive environmental claims.

3. Third-party certification does not eliminate a marketer’s obligation to have substantiation for all conveyed claims.

4. Marketer can make an unqualified recyclable claim only if there’s a “substantial majority” of consumers/communities who have access to recycling facilities.

5. Marketers should not make unqualified degradable claims for items destined for landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities because decomposition will not occur within one year.

6. Non-toxic claims can only be used when an item is generally non-toxic both for humans and for the environment.

Read the summary of the proposal at FTC’s website.

What’s more interesting in these amendments is the issues that are not currently being addressed, such as renewable materials and renewable energy claims, as well as those related to carbon offsetting.

The FTC has set a 60-day comment period ending on December 10, after which it can pass a final version of the guidance.

What other issues do you believe should be addressed?