Going Green? Prove It!

June 23, 2009

Is your business green and proud of it? Are you marketing and advertising your greenification efforts in a meaningful way to consumers? We hope you can prove it.

The Federal Trade Commission is the government agency that is supposed to be supervising the use of the claim "environmentally friendly" and other "green" statements under laws passed in1992. Environmentalists, quoted in USATODAY, say there has been too little enforcement.

"There has been little to no enforcement of the 1992 guides," says green consultant Kevin Tuerff, whose company started a website aimed at exposing ads with questionable environmental claims. "They need to pick up the pace."

In fact, since May 2000, the FTC has only prosecuted three companies for violating guidelines that govern companies advertising eco-friendly products or biodegradable packaging. All three of those complaints were announced earlier this month, after Congress scheduled a hearing to look into the matter.

As we have noted in the past here at Green Business Alliance, there has been a huge upswing in the amount of green-marketing going on in the last several years. The interest in environmentally sound products and energy saving offerings has skyrocketed during the increase in gas prices of the last several years and again since the election and inauguration of President Barack Obama. But are all of these companies making legitimate claims?

A recent survey by environmental marketer TerraChoice of 12 large U.S. stores found more than 1,700 products boasting green credentials. We all see eco-friendly claims made by sellers of everything from bottled water ("our bottle design uses less plastic") to sport-utility vehicles ("it's a hybrid!") to laundry soap ("concentrated, so you use less") and those claims aren't always checked out.

Green Business Alliance wants to help interested companies integrate environmental stewardship into their daily business practices, and market themselves to consumers who are concerned about the environment.

James Kohm, who is with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection admits the agency hasn't been as aggressive about enforcement as it might have been, in recent years, which he blames on lack of resources. But he points to the agency's crackdown on energy-related claims as a triumph. The FTC was able to remove products that promised to improve a car's gas mileage but failed to do so from the American marketplace.

More new cases like those announced earlier in the month are to be expected, according to Kohm. We hope so. We all want more businesses to join the greenification effort, but we want it done legitimately with benefits that pay off for both the companies involved as well as their customers and consumers.


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