Essentially, the FTC takes a holistic approach toward determining whether a claim is deceptive or misleading, taking into account the context in which the claim was made, the effect it has on consumer decision-making processes, and any documentable support for the claim.
The Green Guides do, however, provide some specific guidance on the appropriateness of various environmental marketing claims. Here’s a useful list of key things to avoid in making green claims.
• Don’t make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims, such as stating that your product or packaging is “green” or “eco-friendly.”
• Don’t highlight minor or unimportant benefits.
• Don’t use certifications or “seals of approval” that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification.
• Don’t claim that a product is “free of” a substance if the product includes another substance that poses a similar environmental risk.
• Don’t claim that a product is “free of” a substance if that substance never has been associated with that product or category.
• Don’t claim that a product is ozone-friendly or safe for the ozone layer or atmosphere.
• Don’t make unqualified renewable energy claims based on energy derived from fossil fuels, unless you purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to match the energy use.
• Don’t make an unqualified “made with renewable energy” claim unless almost all of the manufacturing involved was powered with energy matched by RECs.
• Don’t claim you are using renewable energy if you sell RECs for all the renewable energy you generate
• Don’t make an unqualified claim about renewable material unless you clearly identify the material being used and explain why it is renewable.
• Don’t make a claim concerning recycled content unless the material has been recovered during the manufacturing process or after consumer use.
• Don’t make unqualified recycled material claims if the product or package is only made partly from recycled material.
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