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FTC Adjusts Green Marketing Terms

By NAM News Room

The Federal Trade Commission will revise its guidelines for green marketing terminology like “net zero” or “carbon offsets,” according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). 

What’s happening: The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, also known as the Green Guides, detail how consumers understand certain labels and what marketers should do to prove they fulfill them. These guides are due for revision, as the last round was in 2012.

  • “The update might mean some marketers will want to change their practices or stop using certain claims to avoid FTC scrutiny or enforcement. It could also help level the playing field for those that give priority to sustainability in their marketing strategy.”

Why it matters: Although the guides are nonbinding, they help marketers understand what the FTC views as acceptable marketing—or not.

  • If marketers make claims that do not align with the Green Guides, the FTC may bring a case against them for deceptive marketing. (Of course, the FTC can also bring such a case regarding a term not found in the Green Guides.)

What’s changing: The FTC has yet to confirm what it will revise and in fact hasn’t started the review process yet.  

  • However, “[t]he agency may revisit labels it didn’t cover in 2012, such as ‘sustainable,’ ‘organic’ or ‘natural,’ observers said.”
  • “It might also rethink how much marketers need to substantiate claims and the role of life-cycle assessments in them… These kinds of assessments examine each stage in making a product, beginning with acquiring raw materials and concluding with final disposal.”
  • “‘Recyclable’ and ‘reusable’ claims could also see updates, along with claims related to carbon offsets or being ‘net zero,’ or balancing emissions produced with those removed from the atmosphere.”
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