Happy Earth Day! Our President is meeting with world leaders to discuss climate change and has committed to halving the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Now that's something to celebrate!
And companies are marketing earth day promotions, ranging from deals on recyclable products to sales of products triggering donations to pro-environmental charities and more. You’ll also see a lot of terms bandied about like “compostable” and “sustainable” and “eco-friendly.”
As we’ve blogged about before, marketers promoting the environmental benefits of their products should keep the FTC’s Green Guides top of mind. The Guides set forth general principles for making environmental claims (like, don’t overstate the benefit) and specific guidance about some particular claims, like what you need for a carbon offset claim. However, some terms gaining popularity by marketers, like “sustainable,” are not yet addressed by the Green Guides. Does that mean all bets are off? Of course not. State laws may address the specific claim at issue and, even if not, a green claim must be truthful and appropriately substantiated, like any other advertising claim. This is especially important for claims that consumers may not be able to independently verify, like how a company's products are made.
And a final note, much like the one I made in connection with marketing during Black History Month: companies looking to market their environmental bona fides should be sure to take a hard look at their overall policies and practices to avoid overstating the virtue of their actions. Introducing one product sku that uses a little less plastic than it did before, if commendable, does not necessarily an eco-friendly company make. Consumers’ – and regulators’ -- tolerance for greenwashing is shrinking and social media provides an easy outlet to sound the BS alarm.
It's not easy being green.