By  on October 2, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission warned companies against making unsubstantiated marketing claims or certifications for “environmentally or eco-friendly” products in new guidance it released Monday.

The new guidance came in the FTC’s revised “Green Guides” that were first introduced in 1992 and are designed to help companies avoid making misleading environmental claims about their products.

The guides describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may find deceptive. The agency will take enforcement action against deceptive claims, which can ultimately lead to commission orders prohibiting the deceptive advertising and marketing and fines if those orders are later violated.

The FTC has brought several enforcement actions against companies in recent years related to deceptive bamboo, recyclability and biodegradability claims.

FTC guidance is closely watched by the fashion industry, which has invested heavily in reducing its carbon footprint in manufacturing and retail operations around the globe, as well as in the products it sells.

“The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and for producers who want to sell them,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. “But this win-win can only occur if marketers’ claims are truthful and substantiated. The FTC’s changes to the Green Guides will level the playing field for honest business people.”

Among the modifications in the guides is one that cautions companies from making broad, unqualified claims about “green” products.

“Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate,” the FTC warned.

The agency also added new sections to the guides, including one on certifications and seals of approval, warning companies not to use those that do not “clearly convey the basis for certification.” Other new sections guiding companies include “free-of” claims, nontoxic claims and “made with renewable energy and materials” claims.

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