The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that it is proposing a new set of rules to regulate environmental claims that marketers make about their products.
According to the new proposed guidelines, advertisers would be urged not to market their products as “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly,” because these claims are too general and difficult to prove, making it potentially deceptive to consumers.
“In recent years, businesses have increasingly used ‘green’ marketing to capture consumers’ attention and move Americans toward a more environmentally friendly future. But what companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a press release.
“The proposed updates to the Green Guides will help businesses better align their product claims with consumer expectations,” Leibowitz added.
The FTC has not updated its green guidelines since 1998. In that time, there have been many instances of companies stretching the truth with green-focused advertising.
Clorox introduced a so-called environmentally friendly cleaning product called Green Works back in 2008, and continues to market it as a greener option, despite the fact that studies show it contains dangerous chemicals. And last year, Kmart marketed a set of disposable plates as biodegradable despite the fact it would take hundreds of years for them to actually break down naturally. This latter claim prompted the FTC to warn Kmart against this form of advertising.
So, for example, the new rules look to clearly define what consumers expect when reading terms like “degradable” and “compostable” in order to make it easier for regulators to determine whether the product lives up to its marketing.
The FTC is currently looking for comments on the proposed guidelines from now until Dec. 10, and will then issue the finalized version.