Beware of 'Green' Services, Products
Greenwashing: With no legal definition, claims of being 'green' don't necessarily have to be true -- yet.
Sensing demand for environmentally friendly products, the nation’s retailers have unleashed a barrage of green — from green banks and green power plants to green detergents and green garbage hauling. Legally speaking, however, the term “green” has yet to be officially defined. Nicole Kibert, an attorney at Carlton Fields in Tampa, equates “green” to “organic” of 10 years ago, before the Food and Drug Administration specified what constitutes organic. “The problem with the word green,” Kibert says, “is it’s just really generic.”
Gaida Zirkelbach, a technology and business attorney with Gunster in West Palm Beach, is already giving her clients a heads-up. She’s advising them that before promoting a product as environmentally friendly they need to be able to demonstrate that the claim is true. Zirkelbach thinks enforcement actions are imminent.
| “My guess is that the FTC, once these rules are implemented, will want to make examples of some companies.”
— Attorney Gaida Zirkelbach
Brian W. Warwick, a consumer attorney based at The Villages community in central Florida, says existing truth-in-advertising laws encompass false green claims, adding that it’s difficult to show harm to consumers in such cases.Judging by how long it took the Food and Drug Administration to define “organic” and how long it’s still taking the FDA to define “natural,” Warwick says he doesn’t expect a quick definition of “green.”
“The only way it will be regulated,” Warwick says, “is if it becomes important enough to enough people.”