On October 1, 2012, after many years of study and evaluations of several iterations, the Federal Trade Commission issued revised "Green Guides" targeting environmental marketing claims. The revised Green Guides include updates to the existing Guides and new sections on the use of carbon offsets, "green" certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims. The modified Guides warn against making broad, unqualified claims that a product is "environmentally friendly" or "eco-friendly", deeming these claims "nearly impossible to substantiate." The Guides also:
- Caution against claiming a product is "degradable" unless it can be proven that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after disposal
- Clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims
- Include new sections on: 1) certifications and seals of approval; 2) carbon offsets, 3) "free-of" claims, 4) non-toxic claims, 5) made with renewable energy claims, and 6) made with renewable materials claims.
Importantly, the Guides do not address use of the terms "sustainable," "natural," and "organic." According to the FTC, the Green Guides "describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may or may not find deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Under Section 5, the agency can take enforcement action against deceptive claims, which ultimately can lead to Commission orders prohibiting deceptive advertising and marketing and fines if those orders are later violated." More information about the new Green Guides can be found here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/10/greenguides.shtm For more information on environmental law topics, please contact one of the Burr & Forman team members for assistance. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.