Revised Guidance from Federal Trade Commission on Using Green or Environmentally Friendly Advertising Claims

October 23, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission has long had guidelines concerning the use of “green” or similar claims of environmental benefits to products by advertisers. Recently, these so-called “green guides” were updated for the first time in almost 15 years to reflect the new world of advertising claims promoting green or environmentally friendly products or packaging.
These green guides are not technically legal requirements. However, they provide useful guidance to advertisers about how the FTC staff views these claims in false or deceptive advertising cases under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Advertising that is misleading, deceptive or is not adequately substantiated can be the basis for serious fines and penalties from the FTC, whether they are environmentally focused claims or not. However, with the recent updates to the FTC’s green guides, we have more detailed input on how the regulators view environmentally focused claims in the marketplace against the backdrop of false or deceptive advertising laws generally. As a result, any party that engages in any advertising which makes any environmental claims – whether targeting consumers or business-to-business markets – is well advised to review its claims in light of these FTC green guides.
Areas of emphasis under the newly revised FTC green guides include (1) use of certifications and seals of approval suggesting environmental standards have been met, (2) claims regarding carbon offsets or carbon neutrality, (3) claims that a product is “free of” one substance or another, (4) claims that a product or packaging is made using renewable energy sources, and (5) claims that a product or packaging is made using renewable materials. The guidelines also include numerous examples to illustrate FTC positions regarding many commonly used environmental claims in today’s advertising.
Ruder Ware can assist your company in reviewing its advertising claims to help make sure upcoming or ongoing advertising efforts – whether related to the updated FTC green guides or not – are designed to avoid the risks and serious liabilities associated with false and deceptive advertising laws. If you have questions regarding the above, please contact Steve Lipowski, the author of this article, or any of the attorneys in the Business Transactions Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

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