12.28.2011 - Posted By: Todd Yerman - Director of Business Development
The Federal Trade Commission recently issued proposed changes to their “Green Guides,” an announcement that’s created buzz in both marketing and legal circles recently. If you haven’t been following, Green Guides are the FTC’s guidelines to, in their words, help marketers avoid misleading consumers with unfair or deceptive claims.
Many in our industry are watching this process as a first step in cracking down on “greenwashing” –deceptive marketing or PR spin meant to portray a company as being environmentally friendly. The phrase was actually coined in response to those hotel cards asking us to reuse our towels and sheets for the duration of our stay to lessen the environmental impact of doing laundry. However, there are certainly plenty more egregious examples commonplace in the work our industry produces today.
I wouldn’t recommend we pin all our hopes on the FTC swooping in to save the day and clean up the practice of greenwashing, though. Their Green Guides review has been ongoing since 2007 and it appears it still has a way to go.
I don’t know that marketers really need to wait on guidance from the FTC here. If we as marketers are doing our jobs right, we should already be in compliance with whatever their directive is likely to be. We should already be working to a higher standard than “avoid misleading consumers with unfair or deceptive claims.”
That standard should be “advertising with integrity.” We, as an agency, owe you forthright consultation on plainspoken and genuine communication with your consumers. You owe your consumers authenticity, trustworthiness and promises delivered. If we all market under the belief that our name and our reputation are our most prized possessions, the FTC’s guidelines really shouldn’t have any significant bearing on our marketing practices.
What do you think? Does striving for higher ground in marketing practices cover FTC Green Guides compliance? Any particularly absurd instances of greenwashing you’d like to share? We’d love you to join the conversation.