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Tips for Avoiding Green Washing

Posted by Luke on April 15, 2010

As a follow up to my earlier post on taking action against manufacturers who mislead consumers, here are some steps businesses can take to make sure they don’t end up in similar situation that Georgia-Pacific is in by falsely advertising their products.

If you want more info, these steps came directly from an article called 8 Tips to Acing Green Guidelines.

  1. Be specific in your claims. Claims such as sustainable, recyclable, natural, and compostable should all have qualifying statements.  Check with this guide on the Federal Trade Commission’s website for clarification on how to correctly use potentially vague and subjective terms.
  2. Provide proof from third parties. Having a third party such as an independent research firm, trade association, industry institute, or other valid unbiased group helps prevent misinterpretation and misleading of consumers.
  3. Check to see that compliance certificates are up-to-date. If you claim your products are compliant with an industry standard or other governing body, make sure the compliance docs are current.
  4. Provide supporting documentation for heavy metals limits and other ingredient claims. This documentation can be from an independent testing laboratory.
  5. Be aware of your state’s renewable energy resources. If you are making a claim about your energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, check with your state to ensure you are taking into account the correct type of energy source.  This can have a big impact on your numbers.
  6. Be clear with recycling, biodegradation, and compostability claims. Make sure your products pass ASTM D6400 and D6868 tests and are certified by a third party such as the Biodegradable Products Institute.
  7. Be specific with source-reduction claims. Statements such as “uses less material” or “creates less waste” aren’t descriptive enough.  To avoid misleading consumers and getting in trouble with the FTC, make sure the statements indicate what the comparison is to – i.e. “uses 20% less material than XYZ product.”
  8. Ensure statistical differences of 15% or more. To really have a better product, the test results should indicate a statistically significant result than your comparison product.  Using 15% as that statistical difference will help keep you out of trouble.

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