Online Exclusives

Seeing Green

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | January 22, 2013

FTC issued revised Green Guides in October. Here's what they mean for marketers and suppliers.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued revised Green Guides in October. James Kohm, associate director, enforcement division, FTC, was on-hand at the CSPA annual meeting to help explain what it all means to attendees. The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 and were revised in 1996 and 1998. The guidance they provide includes:

• General principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims;
• How consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and
• How marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
“We wrote the Guides to level the playing field,” assured Kohm. “We’re not playing a game of ‘Gotcha!’”
In fact, Kohm went out of his way to offer assurances that the FTC wants to work closely with industry to make sure that companies understand what the Guides are, what they can do and what they can’t do.
“We sue those companies who step over the line and those that live over the line,” said Kohm. “We didn’t write the Guides for people who live over the line.”

And how does FTC find out about companies that cross the line on green claims? Primarily from competitors who cry foul, according to Kohm. The Guides total 35 pages with “real world” examples and 308 pages of analysis.

In revising the Green Guides, the FTC modified and clarified sections of the previous Guides and provided new guidance on environmental claims that were not common when the Guides were last reviewed. Among other modifications, the Guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits.Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate, according to FTC.

The Guides also advise marketers not to make an unqualified degradable claim for a solid waste product unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after customary disposal. The Guides caution that items destined for landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so marketers should not make unqualified degradable claims for these items; and clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims.

The Guides contain new sections on certifications and seals of approval; carbon offsets; free-of claims; non-toxic claims; made with renewable energy claims, and made with renewable materials claims.

The Guides caution marketers not to use environmental certifications or seals that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification, because such seals or certifications are likely to convey general environmental benefits.

Perhaps, just as important, Kohm told the audience what The FTC Green Guides are not; i.e, they don’t offer a seal or certification and they do not define terms such as “organic” or “sustainable.”

“We didn’t give you advice on the word ‘natural,’ either,” explained Kohm. “It means so many things to so many people.”
 
 

blog comments powered by Disqus
  • Innovation On Display

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||February 3, 2016
    P&G Beauty Digital Studio showcases new products for 2016

  • Crowning Glory

    Crowning Glory

    Christine Esposito , Associate Editor||February 3, 2016
    Celebrity stylists and experts from leading hair care brands talk about the ingredients and formats driving the styling sector.

  • Electric Slide

    Electric Slide

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||February 3, 2016
    Skin care devices bring anti-aging to the next level

  • Witch

    Witch's Brew: Dickinson's celebrates milestone in 2016

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||February 1, 2016
    Dickinson’s celebrates 150 years of witch hazel skin care with the biggest line expansion in the company’s history.

  • From Research to Retail

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||February 1, 2016
    What began as research on skin disorders led a dermatologist and his father to create their own skin care formulas.

  • Between The Sheets: A look at the dryer sheet category

    Between The Sheets: A look at the dryer sheet category

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||January 25, 2016
    How has the fabric softener sheet category fared of late?

  • Raising the Bar

    Raising the Bar

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||January 25, 2016
    CeraVe Healing Ointment is billed as a next-level skin salve.

  • Morning Jolt…Before Coffee

    Morning Jolt…Before Coffee

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||January 18, 2016
    New caffeine-infused toothpaste launches on Indiegogo.

  • Anything but Botched!

    Anything but Botched!

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||January 18, 2016
    The creator of a new skin care line finds an audience even before they get to try the formulas.

  • A Frosch Start in the US

    A Frosch Start in the US

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||January 18, 2016
    A trusted eco-savvy German household cleaning brand is now available in America.

  • 5 Things I Learned

    5 Things I Learned

    January 15, 2016
    The Avon & Women’s Dermatologic Society Mentorship Program. Dr. Sabrina Fabi (left) and Dr. Kimberly Jerdan.

  • Perfect Timing

    Perfect Timing

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||January 11, 2016
    New ways of collecting data can help cosmetics companies understand what women really want—and when they want it.

  • When a Cosmetic Becomes a Drug

    When a Cosmetic Becomes a Drug

    Jacqueline Sheridan, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP||January 11, 2016
    The unintentional conversion of personal care products through marketing.

  • Lauren B Good

    Lauren B Good

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||January 4, 2016
    Luxe nail polish line attracts cult following and lands in Whole Foods stores.

  • Miami Clean Machine

    Miami Clean Machine

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||December 28, 2015
    EMG Cleaning Systems is expanding its presence in I&I cleaning.

  • Unshrinkit Is Undeterred

    Unshrinkit Is Undeterred

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||December 21, 2015
    The biggest night in this startup’s history didn’t go as smoothly as planned, but the company’s co-founder is confident about the future of her specialty laundry product.

  • Hand It To Them!

    Hand It To Them!

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||December 21, 2015
    New SKU reportedly improves the appearance of pigment, texture and wrinkles for hand rejuvenation.

  • Africa, Rising

    Africa, Rising

    December 14, 2015
    Savvy marketers should expand their operations on the continent, according to speakers at a WFFC seminar.

  • Color, Your World

    Color, Your World

    December 7, 2015
    A kaleidoscope of concepts was the conversation at a recent NYSCC symposium.

  • Let Me Get Your Digits…

    Let Me Get Your Digits…

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||December 1, 2015
    Sally Hansen branches out with a new app and fashion colors.

  • Play Misty for Me

    Play Misty for Me

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 30, 2015
    Body mists for men and women continue to be the hottest commodities in the mass fragrance market.

  • The Space Between

    The Space Between

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 24, 2015
    Prestige Brands expands its platform with yesterday's acquisition of DenTek, a major player in the fast-growing “peg” oral care sector.

  • A Home of One’s Own

    A Home of One’s Own

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 23, 2015
    NeoStrata’s Exuviance has opened its first freestanding retail space, complete with on-site skin analysis and express treatment rooms.

  • Into the Mist-ic

    Into the Mist-ic

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||November 16, 2015
    Toilet tissue spray is billed as an eco-friendly alterative to wipes.

  • The Return of Norell

    The Return of Norell

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||November 9, 2015
    Classic perfume makes a comeback for the holidays.

  • Hitting a Wall(mart)

    Hitting a Wall(mart)

    November 9, 2015
    Walmart imposes slotting fees and that hurts a lot of Tier 2 and 3 FMCG companies.

  • That’s Quite an Achievement!

    That’s Quite an Achievement!

    Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor||November 2, 2015
    The CEW honors seven beauty industry leaders.

  • What

    What's Not to Love?

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||October 26, 2015
    The sun care category is rife with issues, but there’s a lot to like about it.