FTC to review guides curbing false green marketing claims

The Washington Post recently reported that the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] is accelerating its review of outdated "green" marketing guidelines. These guidelines were last updated in 1998, though the FTC regularly reviews all of its guidelines, FTC press officer Jacqueline Dizdul tells PRWeek.

In the news

The Washington Post recently reported that the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] is accelerating its review of outdated "green" marketing guidelines. These guidelines were last updated in 1998, though the FTC regularly reviews all of its guidelines, FTC press officer Jacqueline Dizdul tells PRWeek.

"These were supposed to be up for review in 2009, but because of changes in the marketplace, particularly an increase in green claims, we're going to be reviewing them now," she says.

The review is partly due to a growing number of businesses that are swaying customers to pay premiums to aid projects claiming to help the environment.

"We want to take a look and make sure that the guidelines are accurately reflecting the marketplace," Dizdul notes. Any marketing claim must be truthful and substantiated, and that includes "green" claims, she says.

Why does it matter?

With green marketing, there has to be a level of trust, especially when you're dealing with something like carbon credits, where there isn't a tangible product, says Tim Gnatek, a partner with Blue Practice PR. "There's been a lot of concern about that, and justifiably so."

The green movement exploded rather quickly, and organizations realized the benefits of marketing themselves as green. "But if the trust isn't there, it's not going to last long," he notes.

According to Gnatek, there has been an emergence of nonprofits and third-party companies acting as impartial evaluators of these programs, and there is great value to working with groups who have an established trust with the public.

In the future, green efforts can expect to be scrutinized. Then companies will find it more imperative than ever to demonstrate evidence that their measures are truly green and trusted. Proving that you have a reliable track record and connections in the green industry will be a valuable strategy to employ.

Five facts:

1. According to The Washington Post, "green" is now a $55 million market that often attracts false marketing and advertising claims by various companies.

2. Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy, asked the FTC to review its guidelines.

3. Some of the eco-friendly tactics include selling premiums to plant trees and burning methane to create less potent emissions.

4. Car-rental companies are among other organizations that sell certificates which assist projects that help to reduce greenhouse gases.

5. The current guideline lays out the FTC's ad substantiation statement, in which every product must meet certain criteria to back its environmental marketing claims.

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