By Boyd Amanda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

No, PETA will not be in an uproar.  But if you certify Green claims or use someone else’s certification on your products you may want to continue reading.

In the past we have noted that third-party certifications and endorsements relating to environmental or “green” attributes are heavily scrutinized by the FTC as more “green” products continue to hit the market. Last year, we wrote about the FTC taking action against a plastic lumber marketer and a manufacturer for misleading advertising and marketing that claimed products to be made almost entirely out of recycled plastics. 
Continue Reading FTC Goes Seal Hunting: Issues Warning Letters About Green Seals

There is lore that the beauty industry does not challenge itself sufficiently before NAD, and for this reason NAD brings more monitoring challenges in this area. After the recent decision in a case brought by Unilever, we would not be surprised if we see more competitor challenges in this area. And advertisers on the receiving end of these challenges might not find them cruelty free.

OGX makes shampoos, conditioners and related hair care products with a variety of what NAD termed “exotic” ingredients:  lines with argan oil from Morocco, coconut water, ‎keratin oil, biotin, cherry blossom ginsing, etc. Unilever said the product names were listed next to product benefits in a way that implied the benefit was due to the exotic ingredients. Unilever alleged the exotic ingredients were present at levels that would not deliver these benefits. OGX and its maker Vogue International did not provide evidence of what the exotic ingredients did. Instead, they said that the benefits were due to the formulas as a whole, that shampoo and conditioner clean hair generally, which make hair soft, fuller, etc. It voluntarily committed to redoing its packaging to separate the product benefits in the romance copy from the product name.

Continue Reading When Your Brand Name is a Claim—NAD Cleans and Straightens Without Support from Advertiser

Rayon, or Viscose if you’re British or just want to sound British, is typically made from wood pulp or plant fibers, including bamboo.  However, in doing so the fibers are subject to significant processing, including numerous chemicals, thus the Grateful Dead reference in the title.  Nevertheless, in a time when consumers are concerned about the environment and their own health, manufacturers and retailers alike are often drawn to evoking the image of lush fields of bamboo and its sustainability and eco-friendly features and thus labeling or advertising textile products as “bamboo,” which, let’s face it, does sound a lot better than rayon.  The difficulty with this is the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, or Textile Act, for short.  The FTC, which enforces the Act, has established generic names for manufactured fibers that must be used in labeling and advertising.  “Bamboo” definitely is not on the list, while Rayon and Viscose are.  (If you’re a total fiber geek, there is such a thing as a natural bamboo fiber but in the FTC’s view it is rarely if ever used in commercial textiles.)  Just to demonstrate their generous nature, the FTC has said it won’t quibble with terms like “rayon from bamboo,” just so long as the magic word “rayon” appears. 
Continue Reading From Bamboo to Rayon: What a Long Strange Trip It Is

The Better Business Bureau (BBB), known for being the home of NAD, CARU and other advertising self-regulatory forums, is now also the proud owner of an updated advertising code.  The BBB announced earlier this month significant updates to its Code of Advertising for the first time since 1985 (when the number one single was “Careless Whisper” by Wham.)

In a press release, the BBB indicated that changes to the Code were made “to reflect the many new ways that advertisers reach consumers via websites, social media, texting and other channels.”
Continue Reading BBB Updates Advertising Code to Keep Pace with Technology

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) sent warning letters to 20 manufacturers and marketers of dog waste bags because claims that the bags are “biodegradable,” “compostable,” and other green claims may be deceptive.

As we blogged about in last October, the FTC issued warning letters to companies about their claims that their plastic was biodegradable or “oxodegradable.”  The warning letters involved advertising that products were “biodegradable” when in fact, they would not degrade under normal conditions of disposal in landfills within a “reasonably short period of time,” as required under the Green Guides.  The most recent revisions of the Green Guides had warned that unqualified “biodegradable” claims were deceptive if the items customarily disposed of in landfills would not decompose within one year in such an environment.

Continue Reading Marketers and Sellers of Animal Waste Bags May Be in the Doghouse for Biodegradable and Compostable Claims

“Paper or plastic?”  The age-old question, complicated by the creation of biodegradable plastic, has been broken down more.  Many people’s misgivings about using plastic bags were alleviated with the advent of plastic bags that can carry more weight with less guilt.  However, after this week, there is no question that the FTC is serious about

Advertisers seek out third-party certifications and endorsements for their environmental efforts as a means of providing credibility to green claims made to consumers.  Indeed, the FTC’s Green Guides make clear that companies who choose instead to “self-certify” must make that fact clear to consumers precisely because consumers may view self-certification with more skepticism.

But can an environmental seal also operate as a shield against legal liability?  Chiquita may be about to find out.  The Seattle-based Water and Sanitation Health (WASH) Group has taken issue with green bananas (no one likes the green ones, do they?) and filed a lawsuit against Chiquita alleging that the Company’s claim that its bananas are grown in an ecologically friendly and sustainable manner is deceptive. 
Continue Reading Is Chiquita in a Bunch of Trouble Over Green Claims?

While enjoying these lovely summer days, did you ever wonder how many milk jugs or detergent bottles went into making that “green” picnic table you’re sitting at? You may now. The already peculiar concept of “plastic lumber” is further complicated when manufacturers make false statements about its contents. As new products emerge touting environmental attributes,

In its most recent effort to police the accuracy of environmental claims, the FTC took action against Down to Earth Designs, Inc. marketers of gDiapers, a product that consists of a reusable outer “pant” and removable inserts.  The agency alleges that the company ran afoul of the requirements for environmental claims laid out in the FTC’s “Green Guides” by making unqualified claims that the gDiaper inserts and wipes are plastic free, compostable, and biodegradable when flushed or thrown out.

The complaint alleges that the unqualified biodegradable claims are misleading because the majority of the inserts will eventually end up in a landfill, either because users throw them in the trash or flush them, where they are subsequently filtered out of the water as part of the treatment process and sent to a landfill.  The FTC takes the position that once in a landfill, it is impossible for a material to degrade within a reasonably short period of time. All regrettable diaper puns aside, there are lessons to be learned from this, and other recent green claim enforcement actions, for companies that wish to avoid getting in deep… trouble.  
Continue Reading FTC Finds Green Diaper Claims Full of …Leaks

graduate-plastics_smTo paraphrase Mr. McGuire in The Graduate, “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”  Well, the FTC clearly has taken that advice and has been thinking about the future of plastics in landfills.  When the FTC announced its revised Green Guides slightly more than a year ago they amended their guidance on biodegradability to make clear that unqualified biodegradability claims cannot be made for products that are customarily disposed of in landfills.  In doing so, the FTC rejected comments that suggested it adopt a scientific protocol safe harbor for biodegradability claims because it felt that no such protocol exists that adequately replicates real world landfill conditions.

Well the FTC made it clear this week that they meant what they said.  The Commission announced five enforcement actions involving plastic biodegradability claims and another case involving a more general biodegradability claim.  This confirms what we’ve been telling people – biodegradability claims are the most common type of environmental cases brought by the agency and after yesterday there isn’t even a close runner- up.
Continue Reading We Have One Word for You: Plastics.