FTC to toughen anti-greenwashing rules
By Lee van der Voo , Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Purveyors of green goods and services can expect increased pressure to avoid greenwashing in 2010, following a push by the Federal Trade Commission to retool its guidelines on environmental marketing claims.
That’s good news for green businesses eager to cleanse the marketplace of snake oil sales, increasingly common in an era of growing consumer interest in sustainable products.
The effort by the FTC to retool its Green Guides in 2010, however, also puts businesses on notice that inaccurate claims about environmental benefits could lead to trouble.
The FTC’s Green Guides are intended to serve as guidelines for businesses that make claims of environmental benefit in their marketing. The guides were last updated in 1998. The next update is expected to be complete by the end of the year, following a public comment period. Changes will expand the FTC’s reach from recycled, degradable and ozone-safe products to more sophisticated offerings like carbon offsets, renewable energy certificates, green packaging, textiles, building products and buildings themselves.
Though the Green Guides are advisory and not enforceable by law, their revision bolsters the FTC’s ability to take action against greenwashing as unfair or deceptive advertising, both prohibited by the FTC Act.
That could lead to trouble for businesses in Oregon that make false claims of environmental benefit just to lure business, according to Tony Green, director of communications and policy for the Oregon Department of Justice.
"It will make it easier for us, if the FTC toughens up its guidelines, to go after somebody who claims to meet them if in fact they aren’t," Green said.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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