FTC Proposes Revisions ToGreen Marketing Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission is proposing revisions to the guidance that it gives marketers to help them avoid making misleading environmental claims. The proposed changes are designed to update the agency's Green Guides and make them easier for companies to understand and use.

The changes to the guides include new guidance on marketers' use of product certifications and seals of approval, "renewable energy" claims, "renewable materials" claims, and "carbon offset" claims. The FTC is seeking public comments on the proposed changes until Dec. 10, 2010.

"In recent years, businesses have increasingly used 'green' marketing to capture consumers' attention and move Americans toward a more environmentally friendly future. But what companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things," says FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, in a news statement.

The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 to help marketers ensure that the claims they are making are true and substantiated. The Guides were revised in 1996 and 1998.

The revised guides caution marketers not to make blanket, general 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.

The proposed guides also caution marketers not to use unqualified certifications or seals of approval — those that do not specify the basis for the certification. The Guides more prominently state that unqualified product certifications and seals of approval likely constitute general environmental benefit claims, and they advise marketers that the qualifications they apply to certifications or seals should be clear, prominent and specific.

Next, the proposed revised Guides advise marketers how consumers are likely to understand certain environmental claims, including that a product is degradable, compostable, or "free of" a particular substance. For example, if a marketer claims that a product that is thrown in the trash is "degradable," it should decompose in a "reasonably short period of time" — no more than one year.

The proposed changes would also update the guides by giving advice about claims that are not currently addressed, such as those about the use of renewable materials and renewable energy. The FTC's consumer perception research suggests that consumers could be misled by these claims because they interpret them differently than marketers intend.

The revisions also provide new advice about carbon offset claims. The guides advise marketers to disclose if the emission reductions that are being offset by a consumer's purchase will not occur within two years.

As purchasers of green products, building service contractors need to understand what their suppliers are telling them so they are not buying products that could be problematic for their customers, says Steve Ashkin, president of the Ashkin Group, Bloomington, Ind. In addition, since BSCs will be marketing their green cleaning services, they need to make sure their claims about the products they are using are accurate, otherwise contractors could be held liable and subject to fines.

BSCs could also be challenged by competitors or customers if they market green cleaning programs with products that violate FTC guidelines, which would cause them to lose market credibility, says Scot Case, market development director, UL Environment, Reading, Pa.

"At the end of the day good intentions don't count," says Ashkin. "You have to get the information right."

Study Finds The Germiest School Surfaces

A new study conducted by Dr. Charles Gerba and the University of Arizona in a K-12 school system found that the germiest place at school is the cafeteria table.

Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed classrooms and common area surfaces at six schools in a K-12 school system to determine the relative numbers of total heterotrophic bacteria and coliform bacteria on frequently touched hard, non-porous surfaces.

In addition to the cafeteria table, the most contaminated sites include: computer mice, restroom paper towel handles, water fountains, restroom sink faucets, library tables and computer keyboards.


Trojan Battery Co., Santa Fe Springs, Calif., appointed Jeff Elder as president. Elder previously served as COO and CFO.

Pioneer Building Services, a Maryland-based janitorial company, recently became the fourth company in the Washington Metropolitan area to achieve Green Seal GS-42 Certification for cleaning service providers.

A number of building service contractors recently achieved ISSA's Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) standard: Honolulu-based Team Clean Inc. earned CIMS-Green Building (GB); St. Louis-based Mitch Murch Maintenance Management was awarded CIMS-GB with Honors; Grosvenor Building Services, Orlando, Fla., recertified CIMS and earned CIMS-GB with Honors; and AHI Facility Services, Dallas, received CIMS and CIMS-GB with Honors.

ULC Standards, a Northbrook, Ill.-based independent, not-for-profit standards development organization, acquired majority ownership of TerraChoice, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the exclusive manager of the EcoLogo green certification program. TerraChoice joins UL Environment as part of the Underwriters Laboratories global network. TerraChoice's Canadian operations, office location and staff will remain in place. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Betco Corp., Toledo, Ohio, acquired Bio-Systems International, Beloit, Wis., a provider of bacterial based products. Bio-Systems will continue to conduct R&D, manufacture and provide customer and technical support from their facilities in Beloit. The company will continue to autonomously operate as an independent subsidiary of Betco.


On October 31, Contracting Profits lost a colleague and a good friend. Elizabeth Jankowski was regional sales manager for Contracting Profits, Sanitary Maintenance and Housekeeping Solutions magazines as well as CleanLink.com since 2005. For the last year or so, Elizabeth valiantly fought cancer. Her strength, courage and never failing positive outlook is an inspiration for all of us. She was 55.


January 2011

January 20-22, 2011
Palm Beach, Aruba

This event by the Building Service Contractors Association International features roundtable discussions, networking opportunities and speakers discussing labor law, the economy, communication skills and more. For more information, visit www.bscai.org


WFBSC Congress
February 6-12, 2011
Auckland, New Zealand

The World Federation Of Building Service Contractors hosts an event that allows BSCs from all over the world combine business with pleasure. The congress' theme is "Building A Sustainable Industry" and includes speakers and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.wfbsc2011.com.


BSCAI Executive Seminar
May 13-14, 2011

This program by the Building Service Contractors Association International provides educational sessions on leadership skills as well as networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.bscai.org.

May 24-26, 2011
Verona, Italy

The biennial trade show features educational seminars and a trade show featuring new products from international manufacturers. For more information, visit www.pulire-it.com.


October 18-21, 2011
Las Vegas

The trade show hosts all members of the cleaning industry and includes educational seminars, networking events and an exhibition hall. For more information, visit www.issa.com.