The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just issued its revised "Green Guides" designed to help companies marketing green products ensure that the claims they make about those products are truthful and nondeceptive.
The FTC used input from hundreds of consumers as well as business and industry representatives to develop the revised guidelines. The first Green Guides were released by the FTC in 1992. They were revised in 1996 and 1998, with the latest revisions issued in October 2012 to take into account recent changes in the marketplace.

The updates include new sections not found in earlier guides dealing with carbon offsets, green certifications, and claims about renewable energy and materials.
According to FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz, the growing interest in environmentally friendly products is a "win for consumers…and producers who want to sell them. But this win-win can only occur if marketers' claims are truthful and substantiated."

Among other things, the new guidelines advise marketers against using broad, often unqualified claims such as "environmentally friendly" and "eco-friendly" when describing their products.

According to Mike Sawchuk, Vice President and General Manager of Enviro-Solutions, the guidelines also do the following:
• Advise companies/marketers not to make unqualified claims about the degradability of their products unless they can prove the entire package and/or product will completely break down and return to nature within one year of disposal.
• Clarify the use of such terms as free of and say it is deceptive to claim a product is "free of" a substance but includes another that poses a similar environmental risk.
• Provide guidance on using such terms as compostable, recyclable, and recycled content.

"There is also a section focusing on green certifications and seals," says Sawchuk. "These are designed to tighten the rules about what certification really means with the goal again of eliminating any deceptive practices."