As shoppers continue to hunt the store shelves for product that is environmentally friendly, product manufacturers need to beware how they advertise their product.  The US Federal Trade Commission continues to crack down on manufacturers with false or misleading environmental marketing claims, known as “greenwashing.” 

“Greenwashing” occurs when a company, its product, or its practices promote a misleading perception of being environmentally friendly.  A recent study by TerraChoice, a North American environmental marketing company, issued a report saying that more than 95 percent of consumer products committed at least one offense of “greenwashing.”

Here is an example of a false claim pulled directly from the FTC’s Guide for the use of environmental marketing claims:

Overstatement of environmental attribute –

A package is labeled, “50% more recycled content than before.” The manufacturer increased the recycled content of its package from 2 percent recycled material to 3 percent recycled material. Although the claim is technically true, it is likely to convey the false impression that the advertiser has increased significantly the use of recycled material.

So, how do you stay away from greenwashing?

Here are a few areas to concentrate on: 

  1. Be clear – when making a claim, state the specifics of your claim.
  2. Don’t embellish your environmental claim.
  3. Understand the symbols and verbiage you are using to make your claim.
  4. Substantiate comparative claims.

As more emphasis is put on being good stewards of the environment it is important to clearly communicate how your organization is doing this.  As always, honesty is the best Policy!

Need more help?

The US Environmental Protection Agency has launched a Green Product Web Portal that can help manufacturers find information on standards and criteria for designing greener products.  Click Here

See the full FTC guidelines.  Click Here

For additional information or questions, contact Brian Pankratz (