You wouldn't label your product "red" if
inspection reveals it to be blue. Similarly, a product or
service should not be touted as "green" if it is not
demonstrably environmentally friendly.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposes limits on the
commercial use of terms such as "green,"
"eco-friendly," "recyclable" and
"environmentally friendly" as part of its effort to
prevent misleading and deceptive trade practices. Although
federal laws and regulations do not explicitly address use of these
terms, since the early 1990's the FTC has issued several
versions of its "Green Guides," identifying certain
practices with regard to "green" claims that the agency
views as misleading or deceptive. Thus, the Green Guides
provide a framework for businesses seeking to advertise their
products and services as environmentally-friendly.
In 2010, the FTC released its first
proposed revisions to the Green Guides in more than 10
years. Although the revised Green Guides have not been
finalized to date, they provide a good indication of the FTC's
current stance on "green" advertising practices. As
proposed, the Green Guides discourage the use of unqualified
general claims such as "eco-friendly,"
"environmentally friendly" and "green" in
connection with any service or product, as such broad claims
generally cannot be substantiated and are likely to mislead
consumers. Advertisers seeking to use such terms should
prominently include qualifying language that specifies which
aspects of the product or service are "green." Any
claims about the ecologically-friendly nature of a product or
service, like any other claim made in advertising, must be backed
by reliable evidence—which, in the case of environmental
claims, typically consists of objective testing, research,
analyses, or studies supporting the claim being made.
More specific guidelines apply to a number of other types of
advertising claims, including claims that a product is recyclable,
biodegradable, non-toxic, refillable, or derived from renewable
materials. For example, a product labeled as
"recyclable" must be capable of being saved from the
solid waste stream for reuse, or in the manufacture of another
product, through an established recycling program (i.e., if the
method of recycling the product or packaging is not feasible for
most consumers, it shouldn't be labeled as such). If only
portions of a product are recyclable, the claim of recyclability
must be explicitly qualified to specify which portions may, in
fact, be recycled.
While the Green Guides themselves are not binding law or
regulation, they provide valuable insight into the types of
environmentally-related advertising claims the FTC considers to be
unlawfully misleading or likely to deceive consumers.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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