2013 saw a dramatic increase in the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC’s”) enforcement of truth-in-advertising laws for environmental marketing. Deceptive environmental marketing practices, sometimes referred to as “greenwashing,” were the target of 14 FTC enforcement actions this year, up from 5 in 2012, 3 in 2011, and 2 in 2010. This year’s actions have included some of the largest American corporations, including Amazon, Sherwin-Williams, Macy’s, Sears, Roebuck and Co., Farberware, and K-Mart.

This increase in enforcement activity follows major revisions in 2012 to the FTC’s “Green Guides,” guidance documents which provide information concerning the FTC’s standards for lawful environmental marketing claims.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has incorporated part of the Green Guides into its own regulations at 6 NYCRR § 368.1.  Under the regulations, advertising which uses the terms “recycled,” “recyclable,” or “reusable” must conform to the standards for environmental marketing in the Green Guides.

Notably, the Green Guides contain specific guidance on certain types of marketing claims. Companies advertising a product or service with claims of the following types  should carefully review the Guides:

  • 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

For more information about the FTC’s truth-in-advertising requirements for environmental marketing, contact Elizabeth Knauer or Devin McDougall.