Federal Trade Commission
has released proposed revisions
to the guidance that it gives marketers to help them avoid making misleading environmental claims. The proposed changes are designed to update its Green Guides
and make them easier for companies to understand and use.
The proposed guides include changes designed to strengthen the FTC’s guidance on those marketing claims that are already addressed in the current guides as well as to provide new guidance on marketing claims that were not common when the guides were last reviewed. The changes include new guidance on marketers’ use of product certifications and seals of approval, renewable energy claims, renewable materials claims, and carbon offset claims.
The revised guides also provide new advice about carbon offset claims. Carbon offsets fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in one place in order to counterbalance or offset emissions that occur elsewhere. The guides advise marketers to disclose if the emission reductions that are being offset by a consumer’s purchase will not occur within two years. They also advise marketers to avoid advertising an offset if the activity that produces the offset is already required by law.
The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 to help marketers ensure that the claims they are making are true and substantiated. The guides were revised in 1996 and 1998.
The proposed changes were developed using information collected from three public workshops, public comments, and a study of how consumers understand certain environmental claims. FTC is seeking public comments
on the proposed changes until Dec. 10, 2010, after which it will decide which changes to make final.