As I’ve noted in the past, the agency seems to be conducting industry-wide audits based on specific green claims. Several of the FTC’s recent Green Guide actions (including those against three mattress manufacturers last July) have revolved around failure to provide solid scientific evidence to prove environmental claims.
Last October 29, the agency announced six enforcement actions against five plastics companies for inadequate biodegradability claims. Four of these actions were levied against companies that had based their own biodegradability claims on claims made by other companies. Specifically, their claims were dependent on additives (manufactured by third party companies) used in their products. Apparently they never tested to be sure the additives worked as claimed.
It’s a really good practice to maintain a substantiation file for every product for which environmental marketing claims are made; however in light of the plastics claims I believe it’s also very important to take it a step further and be vigilant about claims made down the supply chain as well.
Keep in mind the following statement from the FTC in regards to the recent actions:
The proposed consent orders…make it clear that ASTM D5511 (a test standard commonly used in the additive industry) cannot substantiate unqualified biodegradable claims or claims beyond the results and parameters of the test, and that any testing protocol used to substantiate degradable claims must simulate the conditions found in the stated disposal environment.
Don’t take any supplier claims at face value. If your environmental claims for your products depend on additives or other materials manufactured by another company, it is your responsibility to make sure that those materials really do perform as you believe they do. Ask your suppliers for scientific proof. If theirs is not adequate, work with them to develop adequate substantiation, take the job of substantiation on yourself, or find another supplier. Your company’s reputation is at stake.