Canada: An Overview: A Rip-Roaring Year

Well, it's been an exciting year for those of you who (like us) get excited about new green guidelines and cases.

Green Guidelines

We've been on the edge of our seats for two years, but the US Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") finally put us all out of our suspense and dropped its final revised Green Guides in October. With some bold new moves, according to some commentators. The International Organization for Standardization ("ISO") also finally got the necessary votes in to finalize its amendments to ISO 14021, its key standard governing environmental claims made by advertisers themselves.

Some of the focus, of course, is on catching up with renewable claims and carbon claims, being used more frequently these days. The FTC was also clearly determined to slam the door on an array of misleading practices that had developed in the increasingly important area of certificates and seals of approval. Why are they so important? Well, it's not that consumers don't trust companies' own claims. It's just that consumers don't trust companies' own claims. So it's considered a good thing for authoritative third parties to verify environmental benefits, allowing an assuring seal or logo to be placed on-pack. Regulators are keen to preserve the integrity of those assurances.

Moving elsewhere in the world, Brazil (2011) came out of the gate as the first South American country (so far as we've seen) to birth detailed new green guidelines. New Zealand got new self-regulatory guidelines. And then there was Australia.

That Australian Competition & Consumer Commission ("ACCC"). (That's the Australian false advertising regulator.) It banged out guidelines to head off misleading claims relating to Australia's new carbon price scheme even BEFORE the scheme went into effect and companies had a chance to start making the misleading claims. But didn't it call it right. Despite the early warning (which some companies evidently missed), misleading claims did start coming out just as the ACCC predicted and, without missing a beat, it went after them.

Green Cases Galore

In terms of cases, the UK self-regulator had a banner year, adjudicating almost 50 green cases in 2012 before we even started carving our Thanksgiving turkeys. Other countries, as usual, paled in comparison.

The US had several green cases, but Canada had none. Not that this should make you relax if you're doing green advertising here. What the Competition Bureau's been busy doing is exercising its new ability to exact C$10 million penalties for misleading advertising, up from C$100,000 in 2009. (You can read all about that in our 2012 CanadianMarketing, Advertising & Regulatory Law Update.)  Which ups the ante for misleading green advertising as well, of course.

We found some snippets we couldn't resist reporting in other far-flung places - from South Africa to New Zealand and Ireland, just to whet your international whistle. Altogether, green cases ran a large gamut, they ranged from good old overly-broad general claims to those involving renewable energy, electric cars, energy and money saving, organic and natural claims, and more. We gave up counting the "natural" cases in the US, so we included just a couple from other countries to keep you interested.

And More. . .

For those who think of waste diversion as less than sexy, give yourself a wake-up slap on the cheek. Stewardship programs and eco fees are way "in" and getting more extensive and serious all the time, as you can read about below.

Finally, two hot topics that screamed for articles were, first, the hard hitting and sophisticated campaigns coming out of environmental groups when they want to go after a company and, second, the ever intriguing and developing world of biofuels – the liquid renewable alternative to fossil  fuels. We hope you find these issues as interesting as we do. So fasten your seatbelts. You probably won't want to read everything (we know), but we wanted to include a little something for everyone.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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