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Green and Red-Faced

Posted 25 August 2010 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Opinion.

FTC Green Guidelines May Leave Marketers Red-Faced – Advertising Age – News.

Ad Age is reporting that new FTC green Guides are coming, and coming soon. While this is yet to be confirmed from the FTC, it brings to light some important issues:

  • Firstly, the US Government is not first to do this. Canada, UK and Australia have all recently updated their own green marketing guides, and are worth taking a look at. Pretty sure that FTC did.
  • Will it really make the 300 different seals invalid? We are not convinced. Firstly, there are not 300 seals in the US, unless you are defining it REALLY broadly, like every kind of tick and leaf you see on a package. Secondly, to do so, FTC will have to take a stand on what is a credible ecolabel – a topic for which there is little current consensus.
  • Substantiation appears to be the key. Want to make a claim that a gizmo is green, greener, green-est? At the least, make sure you can back it up.
  • It’s not only the guides themselves, but also how they are enforced that is at issue. Wonder what is their budget.

A good outcome will be if some of those with dodgy green claims are given pause by this news. A less good outcome is if it stalls the growth of the green economy for legal-department fear of being caught saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, in the wrong place.