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In October 2012, the Federal Trade Commission issued revised Green Guides to modify and clarify sections of the previous Green Guides and to provide new guidance on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, and renewable materials claims.  The revised Guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC believes that very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making such claims nearly impossible to prove. The Guides also:

  • Suggest that marketers should not make an unqualified degradable claim for a solid waste product unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after customary disposal.
  • Suggest that marketers should not make an unqualified degradable claim for items destined for landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities because such items will not degrade within a year.
  • Caution marketers not to use environmental certifications or seals that do not clearly convey the basis for the certification.
  • Fail to address use of the terms “sustainable,” “natural,” or “organic.” 

The Green Guides are not formal rules or regulations.  Instead, the Guides describe the types of environmental claims that the FTC may or may not find deceptive.  The FTC can take enforcement action by issuing orders to prohibit deceptive advertising and fines.

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