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FTC Proposed Green Guide Updates Released. Keyword: Substantiation

Posted 6 October 2010 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today released their much anticipated proposed updates to the Green Guides for marketers. Public comments on the proposed changes can be made until December 10, 2010.

The guides as they are written here represent a realtively low threshold, and appear designed to curb outright misrepresentation. Unlike some previous anxiety, we can see that the FTC is far from taking ecolabels and seals off the shelf. Rather they are insisting that even if you have a product that has been certified, you back it up – and fair enough too. Of note to ecolabels:

  1. Labels and certifications are covered under the Commission’s Endorsement Guides, which state that, for example, marketers should disclose material connections to the certifier. Meaning that one should be able to check whether in fact a product is certified, and that that certification is up to date (or not).
  2. For seals & logos that look and smell like a label, but don’t taste like one because there aren’t any criteria behind them (i.e. a green tick, or a leaf inside a circle); marketers still need to substantiate these claims and limit them to specific environmental attributes.
  3. Finally, having a third party certification doesn’t get you out of also substantiating the claim.

I am guessing on points 1 and 3 that the FTC wanted to side-step the issue of what qualifies as a ‘good enough label’ such that you do not have to do anything else.  The key word for the proposed revised guidelines appears to be:  substantiation.