A former Federal Trade Commission official offered attendees at the International Sleep Products Assn. Sustainability Conference here strategies on how to avoid legal wranglings with the Federal Trade Commission over greenwashing claims.
Leonard Gordon, chair of the advertising and marketing group for law firm Venable’s advertising and marketing group, now works with companies facing FTC legal action.
“Green claims are incredibly important to consumers, and the FTC is aware of that,” Gordon said. “Because of that, they are all over false advertising.”
Gordon pointed out a laundry list of risks companies face in greenwashing — conveying a false impression or misleading information about how a company’s products are eco-friendly, organic or otherwise — that are not limited to civil penalties, lawsuits, hefty fines, loss of reputation and more.
“You are making these claims because you’re trying to develop trust with consumers,” he said. “If the FTC comes for you, it risks that trust with consumers. As more and more consumers are basing buying decisions based on eco-friendly claims, the risk for companies will ultimately rise.”
Leonard shared five key things from the FTC Green Guides that marketers need to keep in mind when promoting:
- Have a “reasonable basis” for the green claims — scientific support is the best strategy, Gordon said.
- Avoid environmental marketing claims that exaggerate or overstate the attributes, qualities or benefits of a product or service. Keep it honest and avoid embellishment.
- Be careful of non-specific, general words such as “green” or “eco-friendly” that could be deceptive.
- Qualify broad environmental benefit claim with clear and prominent language. For example: Environmentally friendly: Now using 30% less packaging.
- Clearly identify that the claim applies to product, packaging or advertised service. Be as specific as possible in regard to what part of parts of a product meet the claim.
I’m Sheila Long O’Mara, executive editor at Furniture Today. Throughout my 25-year career in the home furnishings industry, I have been an editor with a number of industry publications and spent a brief stint with a public relations agency where I worked with some of the industry’s leading bedding brands. I rejoined Furniture Today in December 2020 with a focus on bedding and sleep products. It’s a homecoming for me, as I was a writer and editor with Furniture Today from 1994 until 2002. I’m happy to be back and look forward to telling the important stories impacting bedding retailers and manufacturers.