Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Communicate your green claims carefully!

Big Brother’s watching … and so is the marketplace

A lot has been written lately about whether “green” still sells in today’s struggling home marketplace, but precious little about what you can and can’t say about green elements in your community and home plans.

Big Brother is about to fill that void. The Fair Trade Commission is taking comments right now on its revised Green Guides, which will define what can and can’t be said in green marketing claims. Here’s what’s proposed to be required, synthesized from the Federal Register:

  • Statements must be sufficiently clear and prominent to prevent deception
  • Claims cannot overstate an environmental attribute or benefit
  • Comparative claims must be easy to understand and clear of deception.

Because the FTC’s review will include “building products and buildings,” count on the new Green Guide to impact you if you plan to market a green product. This means your marketing/PR team must understand the regs and how they apply – because people will be watching.

In fact, LA Times Housing Scene columnist Lew Sichelman recently used the Federal Register document cited above to take off on builders, accusing them of “hype,” “fibbing” and doing “as little as possible to be green.”

How can you avoid this kind of media coverage – or worse, an FTC investigation; or worse still, a suddenly alienated potential buyer – and still market a green product? Here are a few pointers:

  • Green product specialists, lawyers and communications consultants should all review your claims. Each brings a different, invaluable perspective.
  • Rely on third parties for believability. Programs like California Green Builder and LEED for Homes provide a safe haven against greenwashing claims. For green products, use the manufacturer’s claims, not your own.
  • Make sure your project manager, sales staff, and marketing team all adhere to the principle of careful promises and magnificent delivery.

By all means, don’t be yellow about being green! With a smart and knowledgeable team on board, you’ll be able to state your claims correctly, and state them boldly.

Until my next “Laer’s Latest,” I look forward to your comments – please email me at, or call me at 949/599-1212.

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