116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Earth Day, started in 1970, will be April 22 this year and its theme will be, “Invest In Our Planet.”
It is not just a time to celebrate the great outdoors but an opportunity to reflect upon their statement that “a green future is a prosperous future.”
Interest in buying products that don’t harm the environment is strong and now clearly more than just a trend as advertisers and many product labeling claims promote the green-friendly attributes of their brands.
If your business makes pro-environment statements and promotes their green products or services it is crucial that the Federal Trade Commission publication “The Green Guides“ is consulted.
What companies might think their green claims mean and what consumers perceive could be vastly different. The FTC guides are meant to help avoid misleading marketing claims.
First issued in 1992, the guides have been revised several times. The “Green Guides” are not agency rules or regulations and describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may find deceptive.
The guidance they provide includes:
- General principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims
- How consumers are likely to interpret particular claims, and how marketers can substantiate these claims
- How marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
The FTC’s last updates to the guides are intended to make them easier for companies to understand and use.
The changes involved guidance on marketers’ use of product certifications and seals of approval, claims about materials and energy sources that are “renewable,” and “carbon offset” claims.
The BBB Code of Advertising is another useful reference tool. The standard the BBB uses in analyzing these ads, titled Environment Benefit Claims, is governed as follows:
Advertisers should avoid broad, unqualified environmental claims such as “green,” or “eco-friendly.”
Other claims such as “degradable,” “recycled” and “non-toxic” only should be used when substantiated and properly qualified.
Environmental Certifications and seals of approval may be used if properly issued. Additional disclosures are needed if not issued by an independent third-party.
Recognize that claims as to energy savings, performance, safety, efficacy, results and the like, which will be obtained by or realized from a particular product or service, should be based on recent and competent scientific, engineering or other objective data.
Advertisers bear the primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising. Misrepresentation may result not only from direct statements but by omitting or obscuring a material fact.
Always be prepared to substantiate any claims that are made.
Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.