FTC Ensures Truthfulness of Environmental Marketing Claims

fresh-bath.jpg“Best tasting.” “Preferred by doctors.” “Will change your life forever.”
When it comes to advertising, brands are obviously not allowed to say anything they feel like. And yet when it comes to environmental claims, many still seem to think that they can.
Sadly, they often get away with it. Look at 7-Up with their “100% Natural Flavor” or Campbell’s Soup with their “100% recyclABLE packaging.” I’m sorry, but last time I checked, high fructose corn syrup wasn’t exactly “natural.” And wow, Campbell, your all-metal can is recyclable? That’s not exactly an environmental claim, and putting it on cans is a blatant attempt to fool the customer into thinking it’s recyclED.
Luckily, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on some of these semi-true claims with their Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.

Last week the FTC charged Kmart, Tender and Dyna-E with false Biodegradable claims. I mean sure, everything biodegrades eventually, but FTC found these claims misleading. Their guide specifies that biodegradability can only be claimed if there is scientific evidence that the product in questions will completely decompose in a reasonably short period of time under normal disposal methods. These products are typically disposed in landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities, where waste will not biodegrade within a reasonably short time. Read more about this case here.
Good job, FTC. Now if only you can start to look into 7-Up and Campbell’s Soup and all the other misleading advertisers.

Audrey is a freelance copywriter. She has worked with every kind of company, helping them to communicate their message of sustainability. Careful to never greenwash, Audrey believes that transparency in marketing is just as important as branding. And that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. When she's not blogging, marketing sustainability or writing radio commercials for Chinese food, you can find Audrey rock-climbing, riding her bike around San Francisco, or looking for work (she's available for hire, call now!)

One response

  1. I’m hoping this is the start of a serious crackdown on greenwashing. But, there’s so much of it, I fear they’ll be able to curb only a fraction of the problem. One destructive result is that the public distrusts claims made by all companies, even truly green and triple-bottom-line businesses.

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