Expert Speakers at WLF Program Address Promise and Perils of FTC “Green Guides”

ecofriendlyAt a February 21 WLF Web Seminar, Sustainable “Green Advertising”: Implications of FTC’s Guidelines for Public, Private, and Self-Regulation, two private attorneys and a forestry trade association environmental expert offered a revealing tour through the provisions and pitfalls of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidelines for “green advertising.” The Commission issued the third edition of its “Green Guides” in October 2012.  The Guides inform FTC’s use of its “unfair advertising” authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act and are also specifically incorporated by reference in numerous state consumer protection acts, most prominently California’s.

The presenters at this hour-long program, which can be viewed for free by clicking the title above, were Crowell & Moring partner Christopher Cole and associate Natalia Medley, along with American Forest & Paper Association Senior Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Jerry Schwartz.

The speakers organized their remarks with a Powerpoint presentation, which is available visually to those who view the program.  The slide deck is also available here.

Some of the interesting insights that you will hear from our speakers include:

  • Products which may meet the thresholds required under federal environmental regulations to qualify as “non-toxic” may not be marketed as such under the Green Guides if trace amounts of toxic materials are present.
  • The marketing of products as “non-toxic” or “free of” certain substances will likely be two of the most challenged practices under the guides.  Those challenges will most likely be brought by companies against other companies, especially larger companies vs. smaller companies.
  • The concept of “recycled content” was one of the most hotly contested during debate and discussion leading to the finalization of the Guides.  For instance, textile and paper companies which utilize scraps of materials generated from production in further production cannot claim such products were made with “recycled content” because in the FTC’s mind, such usage is a routine industry practice.
  • Class action plaintiffs’ lawyers might use the Green Guides as a baseline for filing private shareholder class action lawsuits challenging public companies’ “sustainability reports”.

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