Less Greenwash Coming Our Way?

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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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Comments

  1. This is a step in the right direction but I would like to see some more warnings on consumables.
    Eggs from “caged hens” now have to carry that warning.
    Cigarettes have to carry a statutory health warning.
    It would be good if all products carried warnings. I bet there would be millions of them…

    THIS PRODUCT CONTRIBUTES TO THE DESTRUCTION OF RAINFOREST AND IS KILLING ENDANGERED SPECIES AS WELL AS CONTRIBUTING TO GLOBAL WARMING

    THIS PRODUCT EMITS HARMFUL CHEMICALS INTO YOUR HOME AND IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH

    THIS PRODUCT IS MADE BY PEOPLE WHO EARN LESS THAN £1 PER WEEK BUT WORK 80 HRS

    Need I go on?
    Ok maybe not everybody agrees with such shock tactics. But if they work and make change happen faster then they have got to be a good thing.

    Can of worms?

  2. These guidelines would be welcome, but I don’t think they change the fact that we need less consumerism, not just better consumerism. I kind of like Karen’s warning labels. We need to wake up to the fact that our consumerism is devastating the planet in so many different ways.

    1. I agree, but that’s a different battle to fight altogether. At least this, if done correctly, will prohibit fooling people into buying “green” products that are anything but.

  3. This is fantastic news. The FTC should regulate “green” claims just as much as the FDA regulates nutrition claim. Hopefully this will create a level playing field for those businesses that actually are passionate about making a difference and being socially and ecologically responsible.

    Just the other day I was speaking with a friend of mine about Wrigley’s “Sustainability In Action” campaign and his reply was that green claims is just another way to make people think a company is doing good and to sell more products, but Wrigley joined “Keep America Beautiful” in 1953 as a charter member of the group, long before being “green” was trendy. Hopefully this will restore consumer trust in those companies that truly put effort forth.

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