FTC, marketing, green, climate change
Over the past several years, issues of climate change and sustainability have gained increasing prominence in the minds of the public; and, as a consequence, consumers have demanded greater access to “greener” products and services. Many companies have responded by adopting practices that allow them to deliver more environmentally responsible products and services to the marketplace, which, in turn, has led to a proliferation of “green” marketing claims. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency with primary responsibility for policing these types of marketing claims, has taken notice. And as a consequence, the agency has launched a systematic and comprehensive review of its regulations pertaining to green marketing claims – the FTC “Green Guides” (officially referred to as the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims). In this paper we discuss the legal significance of the FTC Green Guides for marketers of clean technologies and environmentally responsible products. We also summarize the key features of the current Guides, and discuss some of the issues being debated by FTC as the agency considers whether, and how, the Guides should be updated. In particular, this paper will focus on newer types of marketing claims that are specifically focused on climate change, such as claims pertaining to carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates. Because these claims can be difficult to substantiate and do not have universally accepted definitions, they present a unique challenge to regulators and marketers alike.