New US FTC Green Guides for Environmental Product Claims

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued revised “Green Guides” to help companies understand the requirements for environmental claims associated with their products and to ensure that the claims are true and do not mislead the consumer.
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Nov. 5, 2012 - PRLog -- After a multi-year review since the last FTC guidance document in 1998, the updated Green Guides issued on 1 October 2012, are guidance, not agency rules or regulations. Although the Green Guides do not have the force of law, making environmental claims that are inconsistent with the Guides may result in an FTC investigation. Since the Green Guides represent an administrative interpretation, not a rule, they take effect immediately. The Green Guides address claims about the environmental attributes of a product, package, or service, regardless of whether it is being marketed to individuals or in a notable clarification, in a business-to-business context.

They consist of general principles, specific guidance on the use of particular environmental claims using numerous examples. FTC stresses that “n the context of environmental marketing claims, a reasonable basis often requires competent and reliable scientific evidence.” The Commission asserts that the Guides will help companies through this process by explaining how reasonable consumers are likely to interpret claims, describing the basic elements considered necessary to substantiate claims, and presenting options for qualifying a claim in order to avoid perceptions of deception.

“Green Claims” Recommendations

The Guides ( advise against making broad, general environmental benefit claims using terms which can convey a different meaning to different individuals, difficult for consumers to interpret, and more importantly very difficult for marketers to substantiate. The Guides lists several examples of such terms namely “eco-friendly,” “eco-smart,” and “green.” The marketers should appropriately qualify such terms when making any environmental claims. As an example, the FTC stated that expression “Eco-friendly: made with recycled materials” is a properly qualified statement identifying the specific environmental benefits that justify the claim, provided the statement is clear and substantiated and doesn’t mislead consumers about the overall environmental impact of the product.

The Guides contain several sections addressing “new” types of environmental claims; “carbon offsets” claims, “free-of” certain materials claims, “non-toxic” claims, “made with renewable energy” claims and “made with renewable materials” claims. Throughout these new sections, the FTC stresses the need to provide proper qualifying information within the claim and to have reliable scientific data that support the claim.  

The FTC also addresses the environmental certifications and seals of approval that may be attached to a product. According to FTC such certifications or seals of approval may be viewed as product endorsement which will trigger compliance with the FTC Endorsement Guide[1] (http://#_ftn1). A product marketer in such case has to not only meet the burden of proper scientific substantiation for the claims, but also disclose “material connections” to the certifying organization that may have bearing on the credibility of the certification provider.

About SGS Sustainability Solutions

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. For decades SGS has been providing sustainability solutions and services for companies and organizations across the globe. SGS helps in developing sustainability strategies, implementing sustainable design practices, conducting life cycle assessment of products, reducing the environmental impacts of operations, developing or verifying green claims ( and developing a better working or social environment.

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t: +973-461-7924



SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With 70,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.

[1] (http://#_ftnref1) Revised Endorsement and Testimonial Guides,
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Tags:Sgs, US FTC, Green Guides, FTC Green Guides, Environmental Claims
Industry:Consumer, Electronics
Location:United States
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