There’s no denying the recent growth in environmental awareness among consumers today, especially in the home and building industry. From water conserving fixtures to recyclable building materials; high-efficiency windows to low VOC finishing products, consumers everywhere are aiming to reduce their environmental impact through the use of sustainable building products and practices.
Unfortunately, as the sustainable building market grows, so does the clutter of marketing claims such as green, recyclable, environmentally friendly or biodegradable, misleading consumers the true environmental benefits of a company or product. In addition, misleading environmental claims have the potential to take market share away from those products with legitimate sustainable benefits. So how can marketers protect consumers from these misleading marketing claims?
Have no fear, the FTC is taking strides to eliminate deception in the green building marketplace through its environmental marketing guides, also known as the “Green Guides.” A new, much more stringent version is due out in October (this has been a long time coming). In the meantime, here’s where the FTC Green Guides stand today:
According to the guides, unfair or deceptive acts or practices to environmental marketing claims are prohibited, giving the FTC the ability to bring law enforcement actions against any such claims. The guides explain how sustainable messages are most likely interpreted, in hopes that marketers avoid making these misleading claims in the first place.
Following is a list of five best practices we propose that marketers begin building into their practices as they prepare for the latest edition of Green Guides in October:
- Know your products – Understand the environmental impact of your product across its entire lifecycle to avoid making incorrect suggestions about a product’s “greenness”.
- Keep Environmental Claims Specific – As stated by the FTC, environmental marketing claims should specify whether it refers to the product, packaging or both
- Use Seals of Approval and Certifications – Seals of Approval such as Green Seal and WaterSense® legitimize green marketing claims, providing a sense of environmental superiority over non-certified competitors. The FTC advises marketers to accompany certifications with information explaining the basis for the award.
- Avoid Vague Claims – Add substance to claims like “environmentally friendly” by providing consumers with an explanation as to why or how that product is “environmentally friendly.”
- Talk the Talk – Familiarize yourself with the true meanings of specific claims such as biodegradable, recyclable, compostable, refillable or ozone safe. Refer t the green guides to be sure your claims are in no way deceptive.
By following these best practices in accordance with the FTC’s Green Guides, marketers will not only establish trust among consumers, but allow true green products to prosper in the sustainable building industry.
To access the FTC’s complete Green Guides for communicating environmental marketing claims visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/grnrule/guides980427.htm.