April 21st, 2011
FTC to issue new green guidelines, address 'tsunami' of marketing claims
Confused about products claiming “organic,” “fair trade” or “eco” benefits? How about the “WindMade” or “BioPreferred” labels, launched this year?
No wonder. The number of green labels that tout environmental virtues is proliferating, as are complaints about them, such as clothes labeled as “bamboo” that are actually rayon.
Help may be on the way. The Federal Trade Commission is updating its guidelines this year for environmental claims, and the U.S. government now requires, as of January, that all products bearing its Energy Star logo undergo third-party testing to prove they’re more efficient than regular items. Previously, it required testing of only some products.
On May 10, TVs that qualify for its blue logo will have to carry the same yellow-and-black labels, listing annual energy use, that now appear on Energy Star appliances.
Since January, all products bearing the Energy Star logo are required to undergo third-party testing.
“Solutions are emerging,” says Scot Case of UL Environment Inc., a company based in Northbrook, Ill., that tests products. He says the FTC is cracking down on vague, unsubstantiated claims, in part by requiring independent product testing.
“Customers and retailers have gotten frustrated,” Case says. “They’re asking for proof.” He expects the FTC’s rules will weed out weaker labels in favor of those verified by his group as well as other testing entities such as Green Seal, Green Guard, Eco Logo, Energy Star and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has “organic” and “biopreferred” (products with agricultural ingredients) labels.