(Reposted from Corporate Counsel by Marlisse Silver Sweeney from March 28, 2014) –

If your company is “going green” this year, or at least advertising to customers that it is, Ronald Urbach in Madison Avenue Insights warns that it’s not as easy as composting.

Last year, “the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) alone settled 14 separate enforcement actions based on what it considered to be misleading or deceptive environmental marketing claims,” he says, adding that “green claims” were also the subject of many attorney general investigations, private litigation and self-regulatory actions.

Since the FTC’s focus in 2013 was “to enforce long established principles of green marketing,” Urbach predicts that this year the commission will be looking at “new concerns” about “new” environmental issues, such as marketing claims about reductions in carbon emissions or the use of renewable energies. “Be specific and work closely with counsel early to ascertain how different claims might have to be qualified,” he says.

Urbach also cautions companies to consider which form of media they’re using—whether social, mobile or the more traditional methods—and carefully think through the limitations. “[G]reen claims often require a lot of qualifying and explanatory information to be properly understood, and merely referencing a website with details about the environmental claim is not acceptable to the FTC,” he says. It’s also important to note how visuals may be sending messages to consumers and the “overall net impression of the ad.”

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