Environmental Marketing Claims – It’s Not Easy Being Green

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It’s April, which means it’s time for Earth Day.  But for so many consumers, sustainability is top of mind all year.  Consumers are constantly seeking out products and services that they can feel good about using and purchasing.  And marketers want to tout what their company is doing to be good to the environment.  As a result, the marketplace is flooded with claims that our household cleaners are “non-toxic” and our packaging is “recyclable” along with many other environmental benefit statements for products and services.

To avoid what’s commonly known as “greenwashing,” marketers need to ensure that statements made about the environmental benefit of their products or services are clear, truthful, and evidence-based.  A top resource in this area is the Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides,” which can help companies avoid making environmental benefit claims that can attract regulators and mislead consumers.  While the Green Guides are not FTC regulations, they provide detailed guidance on the types of claims that the FTC considers deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which broadly prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” (15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(1).)  Although these Guides have not been updated in almost 10 years, they remain instructive when it comes to a review of environmental benefit claims.

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Brand Visibility via Commercial Co-Venture Agreements

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We’re seeing a lot of commercial co-ventures (CCVs) lately.  It makes sense, right?  CCVs can be a win-win for all parties involved – a company informs the public that it will donate a portion of its sales revenue to a nonprofit organization and, in return, the nonprofit allows the company to use the nonprofit’s brand name to market the product or service.  (For example:  “For every bottle of honey purchased in November 2018, Good Intentions Stores will donate 25 cents to the Fictional National Honeybee Preservation Society.”)  Such collaborations can increase the company’s sales and goodwill, and the nonprofit benefits from donations.

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