New FTC rules take swipe at greenwashing
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
The Federal Trade Commission is poised to swipe the words "eco-friendly" and "environmentally friendly" off of retail products nationwide, and the caution to greenwashing businesses is clear: Be ready to back up marketing claims.
In a first-pass revision of its Green Guides, released this week, the FTC warned strongly against vague claims of environmental benefit, like labeling products "green." The agency has found the claims are impossible to substantiate, unlikely to be true and suggest products have far-reaching environmental benefits that any product is unlikely to have.
The proposed revisions to the Green Guides are not a change in law. The guides simply advise businesses on how to market the environmental advantages of their products and are being retooled as consumers face an onslaught of bogus earth-loving slogans.
The revisions do, however, bolster the FTC's ability to take action against greenwashing as unfair or deceptive advertising under the FTC Act.
Though the revisions are not final – a public comment period closes in December and the changes likely won't take effect until next year – at least one environmental marketing group is urging the government to press businesses to comply with the guidelines. With claims of environmental benefit blandly applied to everything from dishwashing detergent to window curtains, they say wild claims about environmental benefit won’t stop easily.
"The FTC is trying to help advertisers and consumers navigate the wilds of green advertising, but marketers throw about environmental claims with abandon, and I don't expect them to stop," said EnviroMedia cofounder Kevin Tuerff, who created the Greenwashing Index in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication to help consumers sort through green ads. "Due to the global environmental challenges we face, the FTC must come down quickly and forcefully on advertisers who lie."
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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