Williamsburg, Virginia - Marketers of 'green' consumer products finally have some closure on how to approach advertising without running afoul of the US Federal Trade Commission, but new guidelines fail to offer comprehensive advice for many widespread terms, according to a US lawyer.
Thomas Cohn of lawfirm LeClairRyan said that while the FTC's finalised Green Guides do offer more clarity to sellers of packaged goods stamped with the likes of 'recyclable,' 'biodegradable' or 'recycled content,' they fail to cover terms such as 'sustainable,' 'natural' and even 'organic.'
"Still, the top-level themes of the finalised Green Guides are consistent with the proposed revisions published two years ago-namely, that marketers should not make broad, unqualified, general environmental benefit claims, because such claims are nearly impossible to substantiate and are thus deceptive," Cohn said in a 19 Oct news release.
The FTC announced the final Green Guides, which are designed to help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims, on 1 Oct, and the agency is unlikely to revise the rules again for another 10 years, said Cohn.
The agency's reluctance to tackle terms such as organic, natural and sustainable might just give some wiggle room to marketers seeking to push the limits on environmental benefit claims, Cohn noted.
"The purpose of these guides is to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions, and consumers do not have the ability to judge the exact meaning of many of these terms themselves. In other words, there might be an opening for marketers to define a term like 'sustainable' and use it for their own purposes," he concluded.