Did you know there's a "Green Guide" published by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)? The guide was last updated in 1998. There has been such a proliferation of green companies and green-washing claims in the ensuing years that updating the guide was actually initiated ahead of schedule. The comment period was closed last fall, and we're awaiting the new version.
A summary of the proposed changes can be seen here. Modifications to the older version will include adding newer terms such as carbon offsets.
Looking at the older version, it's actually pretty interesting reading. Entitled a "Guide for the use of Environmental Marketing Claims", it outlines numerous terms and product implications that might be used to market an alleged "green" product or service, with examples of how the terminology should be used, as well as where it would be misleading and therefore not acceptable.
For example in 260.6, under the category of (c) Overstatement of environmental attribute, one example is:
"A package is labeled, “50% more recycled content than before.” The manufacturer increased the recycled content of its package from 2 percent recycled material to 3 percent recycled material. Although the claim is technically true, it is likely to convey the false impression that the advertiser has increased significantly the use of recycled material."
Because the Green Guides are administrative interpretations of the law, they don't have the force and effect of law and they are not independently enforceable. However, if a marketer makes claims that aren't in keeping with the Guides, the FTC can take corrective action under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive practices. Their site has a place where complaints can be made, but they wisely recommend researching first to make sure a complainant understands the parameters of what the FTC does and what can be accomplished by filing a complaint.
The site gives a lot of information about the FTC and the areas it covers, of particular interest to me are the consumer protections. Also of interest, if you'd like a current list of environmental marketing cases or copies of individual cases you can call the FTC Consumer Response Center at (202) 326–2222.
NaturalJersey.com was created in order to have a place on the web where we can all share the great green & natural health resources in NJ. I hope you find it a never ending resource when you're looking for health-minded local businesses.