Green Marketing Businesses: Conform to New FTC Regulations
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released new guidelines on what it means to be “green”. As more and more businesses offer green products and services, it’s getting confusing for consumers to know what that means and how to compare one green product with another.
The 36 page guide from the FTC covers extensive details on the big green claims that most companies use to differentiate their products and services. The specific guidance covers the following marketing claims:
- Carbon Offsets
- Certifications and Seals of Approval
- Ozone-Safe and Ozone-Friendly
- Recycled Content
- Made with Renewable Energy
- Made with Renewable Materials
- Source Reduction
If your marketing campaigns, to include such items as package design or postcard printing, claim to “green” using any of those above terms or ideas, the FTC guides provide very specific methods for ensuring that marketing messages aren’t “unfair or deceptive”.
What Business Owners/Marketers Need to Know
The goal of this move by the FTC is to make it easier for consumers to know what they’re buying. Consumers who want to support green businesses are getting lots of different messages about green products and services – a quick glance at the bullet points above are evidence of the many different kinds of green messages to which consumers are exposed.
The FTC guides encourage businesses to substantiate each claim. For example, if the packaging is made of “recycled content”, it is considered a “deceptive practice” to make that claim if a manufacturer uses scraps from their normal process to complete a product – that’s a standard practice in the manufacturing industry and can’t be used to market the product as containing “recycled content”.
This example is provided in much more detail in the FTC guide. Each of the above points have multiple examples, so if your marketing campaign uses any of these statements, take the time to review the guides and see if any of your claims fall under deceptive practices.
In most cases, it’s common sense. But the FTC now has some teeth with which they can use to push back if a business isn’t being fair in how they represent their products and services. In some cases, the guide clarifies some gray areas and calls them black or white.
To review the guides for your firm, the following links will take you to the exact documents you will need. Start with the FTC Environmental Marketing site, where they have some excellent summary documents. The full guide is also available. Finally, check out the consumer site as well to get an idea of how the FTC is helping consumers understand your marketing claims.
- FTC Environmental Marketing site
- FTC – Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims
- FTC Going Green Microsite for Consumers