The Federal Trade Commission has updated their guidelines for environmental marketing for the first time in over a decade according to an article in the New York Times. If a company wants to label their product as environmentally friendly, they now need to have data to back up their claim. Consumers perceive products that are labeled eco-friendly to have wide-reaching benefits, but according to the F.T.C., “Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims…” The goal of the guidelines is not to discourage environmental marketing, but is instead intended to promote clarity and consumer understanding. The new guidelines define words such as biodegradable and require the product/packaging to meet that definition in order to be used in marketing. They also require companies to analyze their claims scientifically. For example, as the article states, before a company can label a product green based on the fact that they use recycled materials, they must weigh the benefits of using imported recycled material against the impact of the long distance travel on the environment. If the shipping causes more damage than the use of recycled materials prevents, they cannot use the “green” label.
With the growing efforts of minimizing our environmental impact and the subsequent increase in environmentally-related marketing claims, these guidelines are long overdue. Consumers are often willing to spend a little more to buy a product that is eco-friendly, and if the claim is unregulated then companies can take advantage of those consumers and increase their own profit margins. Consumers should be confident that when they buy a product that claims to be better for the environment, the product will live up to the claim.
The New York Times article can be found here.