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FTC Issues Warning Letters to Providers and Users of Green Certification Seals

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to issue warning letters to companies that make misleading and unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims. With respect to packaging, the Commission issued a fourth final order in 2014 settling charges that companies made misleading biodegradability claims for their products (see the com article, FTC Approves Final Order on Deceptive Biodegradable Plastics Claim). More recently, in September 2015, FTC sent warning letters to five providers of environmental certification seals and 32 businesses using those seals. The letters suggested that the seals could be considered deceptive and not comply with the FTC’s environmental marketing guidelines (or Green Guides).

FTC stated that it was not taking any law enforcement actions with respect to the warning letters it sent in September or releasing the names of the recipients. However, in a blog post that referred to those letters, FTC discussed the need for certifications and seals to include the reason why a product offers a general environmental benefit, such as whether it is biodegradable, recyclable, or compostable. The Commission added that, although listing the specific attributes that form the basis of a product’s certification may reduce the risk of deception, a company still needs appropriate proof to support those representations.

For more information on FTC guidelines on green claims, see the article, Global Regulatory Considerations for Green Packaging.