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Tues, Oct 6 – 2015

By Kelly Cramer

In the United States, if you’re a professional dealing with any form of environmental marketing claims, the government’s take on what you say is important, and at times, confusing. Businesses must be cautious to ensure that the environmental claims about their products are truthful and non-deceptive under the FTC’s Green Guides. Fortunately, for members of Sustainable Packaging Coalition, there is a space to explore the complexity of these issues.

When a person in business wants to communicate environmental benefits of a product to consumers on a package, there is the question of, “What would the government think about this? Is this logo or phrase legally sound?”

To much extent, this is a very valid question.

Attendees of Tuesday’s  session about environmental marketing legal compliance and substantiating data were able to ask a variety of questions to Laura Koss, Assistant Director of the  Federal Trade Commission. Those questions included: “What kind of guidance might the FTC be able to provide regarding packaging labeling with multiple components? Should [recycling & other environmental] claims be on the outermost packaging only, or is it okay to have it on each component?”… “How does the FTC know how consumers think?”… “What advice might the FTC have for companies who are eager to comply with the FTC’s Green Guides, but who might be frustrated by competitor companies who may seem to disregard the Green Guides guidance?”…  “Is the FTC willing to work with companies to expand and build consumer perception data?” … and more.


Ms. Koss  was able to provide unique insight into  her interpretation of FTC’s Green Guides, in response to these timely questions. Overall, the governmental perspective seems to be: be as specific as possible. Make environmental claims clear and prominent. Don’t make qualifications about those claims only in asterisks and in tiny print. Be honest about what your product represents and does not represent. And remember that in the FTC’s eyes, it’s all about what a “reasonable consumer” might think about an on-package claim.

As most legal answers tend to be, the response to many of these questions usually begins with, “it depends.” But today’s session thankfully provided some contour to the Green Guides that one can’t simply find on a Google search alone. Find more information on FTC guidance about environmental marketing claims  here.