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