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Can you market your product as "sustainable" or "carbon neutral"? Ask the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently kicked off a comprehensive review of its "Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims" or, more commonly known as the "Green Guides." The Green Guides provide general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims in marketing and advertising, how consumers interpret particular claims and how to substantiate such claims, and how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers. Last revised in 2012, the Green Guides outline how to use certain terms in a way that is not deceptive to consumers and covers a very broad subset of terms such as "sustainable," "carbon neutral," "free-of" claims and even degradable/compostable/recyclable claims.

I expect that FTC's review will focus on greenwashing claims and exaggerated environmental claims about products. There is an opportunity for public input to inform the FTC's revisions and the FTC has specifically identified certain claims that are under review, including whether the FTC should weigh in on the use of the term "organic." In the meantime, be sure that your product-specific claims meet the current Green Guides requirements, are specific in nature and are substantiated. With changing state regulatory landscapes that impact many of the claims covered by the Green Guides, I recommend a regular review of environmental marketing claims. Further, consider adding flexibility in marketing and advertising tools during the product development phase - the earlier, the better.

“Consumers are increasingly conscious of how the products they buy affect the environment, and depend on marketers’ environmental claims to be truthful,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine. “We look forward to this review process, and will make any updates necessary to ensure the Green Guides provide current, accurate information about consumer perception of environmental benefit claims. This will both help marketers make truthful claims and consumers find the products they seek.”

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agribusiness, environmental, fab, regulatory
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