This “Washington Watch” column briefly reviews the TerraChoice report, and then discusses some of the legal issues surrounding the growing avalanche of green marketing claims, including FTC’s Green Guides and the Commission’s efforts to revise them.
The explosion of green marketing claims: FTC jumps into the fray
Most people would agree that “green” sells. For example, according to the New York Times, consumers spent approximately US$54 million in 2007 on carbon credits to support tree planting, wind farms, solar power generation, and other projects intended to offset greenhouse gas emissions created by driving and flying activities. While there is broad agreement about the impact of green marketing, there is far less agreement on whether the majority of environmental marketing claims are accurate. According to a 2007 report by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, Inc., most green marketing claims either are “demonstrably false” or “risk misleading intended audiences.” The growth of environmental advertising has caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency tasked with monitoring and preventing unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace. Mindful of the potential for mischief arising from false and deceptive practices in environmental marketing, the FTC announced late last year that it plans to review its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly known as the “Green Guides.” The Commission will focus especially on issues surrounding carbon offsets, renewable energy certificates, environmental packaging claims, and green building issues.