BBB: Revised Green Marketing Guidelines Help Consumers Judge Environmental Claims

  
     
October 18, 2012

recycling symbolSt. Louis, Mo., Oct. 18, 2012 – Sorting out the truth on environmental claims could be a lot easier now that the Federal Trade Commission has come out with revised “green guides” for companies, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says.

The revised guides are designed to assist consumers by encouraging marketers to be truthful about claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products and services. The guides include new sections on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, renewable energy and renewable materials claims. The guides are not rules or regulations, but they define what the agency may find deceptive.

A major change is a warning to marketers against making broad, unqualified claims that a product is environmentally friendly or “eco-friendly.” The agency found that consumers thought that such claims suggested benefits far beyond the actual attributes of a product. Marketers also must have reliable scientific evidence to support the benefits claimed.

“The BBB welcomes the new guides, which ask companies to back up any claims they make about a product’s benefits or impacts on the environment,” said Michelle Corey, BBB President and CEO. “Everyone wants to be kind to the Earth, but they want the truth, too.”
Among the new guides:

  • Marketers may not make an unqualified claim about a product’s degradability unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within a year after customary disposal.
  • Because products destined for landfills, incinerators or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, marketers must not make unqualified degradable claims for them.
  • Marketers that use certifications or seals of approval must disclose any material connections they may have to the certifying organization, and they shouldn’t use seals that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification. They may refer consumers to a website for more information on the certification or the attributes that are being certified.
  • Marketers need evidence to back up claims that a product is compostable. Some products may compost in a green waste facility but not at home, for example.
  • Marketers can claim that a product is free of certain substances if the amounts contained are no more than trace amounts. However, they cannot make the claim if the substance was added to the product intentionally.
  • Marketers can make claims about recycled content only if the waste was diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process or after consumer use, and they should qualify claims for products or packages made partly from recycled material or if the products contain used, reconditioned or remanufactured components.
An FTC a summary of the “green guides” for consumers is available online at www.ftc.gov. A video explains changes in the guides.

Before doing business with a company, check its BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), communications@stlouisbbb.org