There are a number of statements that may constitute illegal greenwashing. More common statements include (1) unsubstantiated environmental benefits claims; (2) general and unqualified environmental benefits claims; and (3) overstating the environmental benefits of a product or service.
(1) Unsubstantiated Environmental Benefits Claims: These are claims that are made without the advertiser verifying the truth or accuracy of the statement. “All reasonable interpretations” of a marketing claim must be truthful, not misleading, and supported by a competent and reliable evidence.
(2) Unqualified environmental benefits claims: These are claims that fail to disclose important information to help the consumer understand the marketing claim being made. Statements can be qualified by identifying specific circumstances when a claim may be true or false, or by including information that limits the scope of a claim being made.
(2) General environmental benefits claims: These statements typically involve a broad, sweeping environmental benefit claim, but lack any information contextualizing that claim. The FTC advises marketers from making such claims because it is highly unlikely that all reasonable interpretations of these claims can be substantiated. Such statements should include clear and prominent qualifying language that limits the claim to a specific benefit or benefits.
(3) Overstating environmental attributes: These are statements that, directly or by implication, exaggerate the environmental benefits of a product or service. Typically, such exaggerated claims lack important information to qualify or contextualize the claims.
(4) Comparative Claims: These are claims either directly comparing the environmental attributes of different products or services, or claims analogizing the environmental benefits of one product to the benefits of another. These claims “should be clear to avoid consumer confusion about the comparison” being made.