The FTC is proposing revisions to guidelines for the use of environmental marketing claims. Comments are due by Dec. 10.

This is indeed a tall task. Trying to maintain the integrity of green and "eco" jargon is a mammoth undertaking. The consumer can be so easily juked, fooled and ultimately disillusioned.

Here is the summary of the proposed rule and little background on the issue:

SUMMARY: The Federal Trade Commission (``FTC'' or ``Commission'') conducted a comprehensive review of its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (``Green Guides'' or ``Guides'') and proposes retaining the Guides. After reviewing the public comments, the transcripts of three public workshops that explored emerging issues, and the results of its consumer perception research, the Commission proposes several modifications and additions to the Guides. These proposed revisions aim to respond to changes in the marketplace and help marketers avoid making unfair or deceptive environmental marketing claims. The Commission seeks comment on these proposed revisions and other issues raised in this document.


Environmental marketing claims are useful sources of information for consumers, but only when they are true. Ensuring that such claims are truthful is particularly important because consumers often cannot determine for themselves whether a product, package, or service actually possesses the advertised environmental attribute. Because there is a potential for consumer confusion about environmental claims, guidance from the FTC can benefit both businesses and consumers alike.

To help marketers make truthful and substantiated environmental claims, the Federal Trade Commission issued the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (``Green Guides'' or ``Guides'') in 1992, and revised them in 1996 and 1998.

The Guides help marketers avoid making deceptive claims by outlining general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and providing specific guidance about how reasonable consumers are likely to interpret particular claims, how marketers can substantiate them, and how they can qualify those claims to avoid consumer deception. Periodic review ensures that the Guides keep pace with evolving consumer perceptions and new environmental claims. Since the FTC last revised them in 1998, the marketplace has been dynamic.

As consumers have become increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the products and services they use, marketers have expanded their promotion of the environmental attributes of their products and services. Some of these promotions have prompted enforcement action by the FTC, including cases challenging certain environmental benefit claims as false, such as ``degradable'' paper products or so-called ``bamboo'' textiles that are made with an ``eco-friendly manufacturing process.'' And, an increasing number of environmental claims are new or were not common when the Guides were last reviewed and, therefore, are not addressed by the current Guides.

Thus  beginning in 2007, the FTC sought public comments on the continuing effectiveness of the Guides, held public workshops on emerging green marketing issues, and conducted research on consumer perception of environmental claims. This review affirms that the Guides have benefitted consumers and businesses but suggests that the Guides should be updated. The FTC, therefore, proposes several revisions to the Guides.

Many  of these revisions strengthen, add specificity to, or enhance the accessibility of the current guidance on general ``green'' claims and environmental seals, and claims such as compostable, degradable, and recyclable. Others propose new guidance regarding emerging claims not currently addressed in the Guides, such as renewable materials,renewable energy, and carbon-offsets.