This week, the FTC issued its proposed revisions to the "Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims" (the "Green Guides") and announced that it will be accepting public comment on the Proposed Guides until December 10, 2010. The Green Guides, first issued in 1992 and last revised in 1998, are designed to help businesses ensure that the environmental marketing claims they make are true and substantiated. Although the Green Guides are not legislative rules (and thus not directly enforceable regulations), they are instructive on how the FTC views certain types of environmental marketing claims, and the evidence necessary to support such claims to prevent them from being considered deceptive or unsubstantiated.

The proposed revisions update the existing Guides with respect to claims such as "degradable," "compostable," and "recyclable," and they propose new guidance for claims not currently addressed by the existing Guides. Popular recent environmental claims that receive specific guidance for the first time include "renewable" and "carbon offsets."

The Commission declined to propose definitions or specific guidance for other environmentally-friendly terms such as "sustainable," "natural," "organic," "life cycle assessment," and "biobased." The FTC’s rationale for not giving these terms specific treatment was based in large part on lack of consumer perception data, along with deference to sister agencies’ existing standards and definitions for these terms.

Click here for a summary of the FTC’s changes to the existing Green Guides and its proposed revisions.