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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
Title 16: Commercial Practices
§260.4 General environmental benefit claims.
(a) It is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, that a product, package, or service offers a general environmental benefit.
(b) Unqualified general environmental benefit claims are difficult to interpret and likely convey a wide range of meanings. In many cases, such claims likely convey that the product, package, or service has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits and may convey that the item or service has no negative environmental impact. Because it is highly unlikely that marketers can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims, marketers should not make unqualified general environmental benefit claims.
(c) Marketers can qualify general environmental benefit claims to prevent deception about the nature of the environmental benefit being asserted. To avoid deception, marketers should use clear and prominent qualifying language that limits the claim to a specific benefit or benefits. Marketers should not imply that any specific benefit is significant if it is, in fact, negligible. If a qualified general claim conveys that a product is more environmentally beneficial overall because of the particular touted benefit(s), marketers should analyze trade-offs resulting from the benefit(s) to determine if they can substantiate this claim.
(d) Even if a marketer explains, and has substantiation for, the product's specific environmental attributes, this explanation will not adequately qualify a general environmental benefit claim if the advertisement otherwise implies deceptive claims. Therefore, marketers should ensure that the advertisement's context does not imply deceptive environmental claims.
Example 1: The brand name “Eco-friendly” likely conveys that the product has far-reaching environmental benefits and may convey that the product has no negative environmental impact. Because it is highly unlikely that the marketer can substantiate these claims, the use of such a brand name is deceptive. A claim, such as “Eco-friendly: made with recycled materials,” would not be deceptive if: (1) The statement “made with recycled materials” is clear and prominent; (2) the marketer can substantiate that the entire product or package, excluding minor, incidental components, is made from recycled material; (3) making the product with recycled materials makes the product more environmentally beneficial overall; and (4) the advertisement's context does not imply other deceptive claims.
Example 2: A marketer states that its packaging is now “Greener than our previous packaging.” The packaging weighs 15% less than previous packaging, but it is not recyclable nor has it been improved in any other material respect. The claim is deceptive because reasonable consumers likely would interpret “Greener” in this context to mean that other significant environmental aspects of the packaging also are improved over previous packaging. A claim stating “Greener than our previous packaging” accompanied by clear and prominent language such as, “We've reduced the weight of our packaging by 15%,” would not be deceptive, provided that reducing the packaging's weight makes the product more environmentally beneficial overall and the advertisement's context does not imply other deceptive claims.
Example 3: A marketer's advertisement features a picture of a laser printer in a bird's nest balancing on a tree branch, surrounded by a dense forest. In green type, the marketer states, “Buy our printer. Make a change.” Although the advertisement does not expressly claim that the product has environmental benefits, the featured images, in combination with the text, likely convey that the product has far-reaching environmental benefits and may convey that the product has no negative environmental impact. Because it is highly unlikely that the marketer can substantiate these claims, this advertisement is deceptive.
Example 4: A manufacturer's Web site states, “Eco-smart gas-powered lawn mower with improved fuel efficiency!” The manufacturer increased the fuel efficiency by 1/10 of a percent. Although the manufacturer's claim that it has improved its fuel efficiency technically is true, it likely conveys the false impression that the manufacturer has significantly increased the mower's fuel efficiency.
Example 5: A marketer reduces the weight of its plastic beverage bottles. The bottles' labels state: “Environmentally-friendly improvement. 25% less plastic than our previous packaging.” The plastic bottles are 25 percent lighter but otherwise are no different. The advertisement conveys that the bottles are more environmentally beneficial overall because of the source reduction. To substantiate this claim, the marketer likely can analyze the impacts of the source reduction without evaluating environmental impacts throughout the packaging's life cycle. If, however, manufacturing the new bottles significantly alters environmental attributes earlier or later in the bottles' life cycle, i.e., manufacturing the bottles requires more energy or a different kind of plastic, then a more comprehensive analysis may be appropriate.