Last week, the Federal Trade Commission proposed changes to the methods that companies use to claim environmental friendliness. The FTC is currently reviewing its “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims“, which was last updated in 1998 – well before “green” became a marketing catchphrase used to sell products. Some proposed changes include:
– No blanket, general claims of environmentally friendly because such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims.
– Guides also caution marketers not to use unqualified certifications or seals of approval those that do not specify the basis for the certification.
– Guides advise marketers how consumers are likely to understand certain environmental claims, including that a product is degradable, compostable, or free of a particular substance. For example, if a marketer claims that a product that is thrown in the trash is degradable, it should decompose in a reasonably short period of time no more than one year.
These changes make me very optimistic that greenwashing will be limited to those products on the fringe and not the mainstream items I discuss here every week. From past Greenwash of the Week features like Scott Green Naturals Paper Towels, Charmin Megaroll Toilet Paper, and Proctor & Gamble’s Future Friendly campaign, you can see that even the biggest of corporations are trying to “go green” by just announcing that they have, rather than by doing anything substantial with their products. Hopefully these new changes proposed by the FTC will stop greenwash right in its tracks. If you want to weigh in on any proposals regarding the “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims”, they are taking public comments until December 10, 2010.
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