The Green Advertising "Tsunami": What You Can Say and What You Can't
By Jere M. Webb
In June 2009, a representative of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testified before a U.S. congressional committee that "there has been a virtual tsunami of environmental marketing" in recent years. Makers of all manner of consumer products are racing to utilize "green" marketing to drive sales.
There is no doubt that consumers are hungry for environmentally friendly products. But federal and state agencies, and consumers and competitors, are watching green claims and green advertising very closely. If you or your clients advertise the environmental benefits of your products, or if you would like to, it's worth taking the time to get the lay of the land. Who is enforcing regulations against green claims? What are the laws in place that the enforcers are using? And what are the fundamental principles that you should follow to avoid liability?
In general, no matter what kind of "green" claim is made for a given product, the fundamental issue, under any applicable law, is deception, both intentional and innocent. Any "green" claim that exceeds the bounds of reality can harm consumer goodwill and generate liability.