The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an organization dedicated to the cause of protecting consumers from deceptive and/or unfair practices of businesses when it comes to marketing. In recent years, green products and services have gained a large degree of popularity among consumers.
Businesses have picked up on that and are beginning to offer a wider selection or variety of green products for customers to choose from. Unfortunately, the FTC didn’t have adequate guidelines in place, until recently, to define what could and could not be labeled as green.
Those days are over now, though, as the FTC has now taken a bold stand to protect consumers and businesses from false claims concerning green products with this latest Green Guides revision.
What Does the Overhaul Accomplish?
The problem with life before the updated green guide came about is that many businesses made well-intentioned attempts to provide customers with greener products. Unfortunately, what businesses meant with their claims and what customers understood them to mean were not always the same. These new guidelines help define or clarify terms so that businesses and consumers are on the same page with certain green terminology.
The latest round of revisions represents thethird set of revisions since the Green Guides came about in 1992. They are important because they provide the following:
- Establishes general principles regarding all environmental marketing claims.
- Provides information on how customers are likely to interpret claims as well as how businesses should substantiate their claims.
- Gives steps marketers can take to avoid making deceptive claims.
- Advises business against making unqualified claims about degradable waste without proof that the entire package will return to nature within one year of disposal.
- Adds new sections to the guide including sections on certifications and seals of approval, non-toxic claims, renewable energy claims, renewable materials claims, free-of claims, and carbon offsets.
What Do These New Guidelines Mean for Businesses?
The guidelines aren’t meant to be punitive in nature. It’s a means of protecting consumers from false or misleading information. The onus is on businesses to ensure they are providing the goods and services consumers believe they are buying.
The good news is that it will level the playing field so that businesses can’t capitalize on the growing trend of earth conscious consumers without providing the planet-friendly goods their advertisements promise.
It also means, though, that your business bears the responsibility of substantiating green claims with data to back them up. Keep that in mind in all of your advertisements and claims and think twice before promoting an item as green without substantial evidence that they are, in fact, green.
Don’t forget the importance of business insurance to protect your business. You need personal and advertising injury insurance, in particular, to protect your business in the event of a claim filed against you for your advertising practices.