Fed Trade Commission takes on green-washing

Quality professionals are increasingly the people who take on the regulatory compliance challenge.  These folks end up responsible for tracking environmental compliance problems and managing solutions.

FTC vs. green-washing
Now, the people who talk and write about quality assurance systems in this regard are typically marketers.  This is not inherently bad.  Two points in defense of folks marketing a solution:
  1. well, at least they have a solution
  2. they usually know their subject to some degree 
But let's speak plainly: marketers marketing has resulted in a lot of greenspeak that is basically nonsense. Called "green-washing" by industry, it's such a problem that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped in, issuing "Green Guides" that aspire to curb marketing claims about products' environmental attributes which are not truthful.

Green Guides came to my attention recently as the subject of a GC3 Retailer Webinar called The Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides: What Retailers Need to Know. In the webinar presentation, FTC's Laura Koss pointed out that the FTC has issued revised "Green Guides."  It was the first I'd heard of them.  Maybe you too?

Below are some highlights of interest, a.k.a. the short version of the FTC Green Guides. If you prefer, go straight to the FTC web page, which has more info.

Revisions over previous Green Guides Among other modifications, the new Guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that a product is "environmentally friendly" or "eco-friendly." They actually have a reason.

A consumer perception study done by FTC confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. And very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers perceive from such claims as "environmentally friendly" or "eco-friendly," making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate.

The Guides also:
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims
The guides contain updated 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
  6. Made with renewable materials claims