Do you make a “green” product?  Do you make any claims about the recyclability, renewable energy used, sustainability or other “green-ness” of your product?  If so, you may want to double check those claims.

The Federal Trade Commission first issued its “Green Guides” several years ago, and issued revised Green Guides in October 2012.  The revised Guides updated the existing Guides,  and included new sections on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims.  One year later, the FTC announced six enforcement actions, including one with a $450,000 proposed penalty, against companies it alleges violated the Green Guides.  The FTC settled three of those cases in January, and recently announced settlement of the fourth of those claims, with American Plastic Manufacturing, Inc. related to its claims of the biodegradability of its plastic shopping bags.

It’s not just FTC raising these claims.   The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a non-profit that certifies the sustainability of wood products, has made complaints against the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, another non-profit, which the FSC claims is a front for timber companies and makes false and misleading claims.   As a result, a number of companies have stopped using the SFI label.  Another non-profit, funded by paper, print and direct mail companies is challenging claims by banks that going “paper-less” is more green.

If you make any of the following types of claims, I strongly recommend reviewing the Guides, and considering how your claims stack up:

  •  Carbon Offsets
  • Certifications and Seals of Approval
  • Compostable Claims
  • Degradable Claims
  • Free-Of Claims
  • Non-Toxic Claims
  • Ozone-Safe and Ozone-Friendly Claims
  • Recyclable Claims
  • Recycled Content Claims
  • Refillable Claims
  • Renewable Energy Claims
  • Renewable Materials Claims
  • Source Reduction Claims