University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


In 1992, the Federal Trade Commission created the Guides for Use of Environmental Market Claims, with revisions made in 1996 and 1998. The Guides designate how the Commission applies Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prevents unfair or deceptive practices, to environmental claims. Based on the increased proliferation of environmental marketing claims, the FTC has decided to again revise the Guides. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the environmental claims present in print advertisements are included in the current FTC Guides and whether the qualifying language surrounding claims is acceptable, poorly explained, not explained, or meaningless. Advertisements from two time periods were selected for a comparison of types and qualification of claims. These time intervals represent a period of stringent regulation during which the Guides were revised (1996 – 1998) and a more recent period of less stringent regulation (2006 – 2008). A content analysis was conducted for full-page environmental print advertisements published during these periods in National Geographic, Audubon, Sierra, and People Weekly. Findings from this study suggest there were more environmental claims not identified within the Guides in the less stringent regulatory period (2006 – 2008). The study also suggests claims published during the more stringent period (1996 – 1998) were more likely than those in the 2006-2008 time period to contain qualifying language that, according to the Guides, was considered acceptable. The FTC was correct to begin a revision, as many claims did not appear within the current Guides. Further specification or clarification of general claims may strengthen this category. Many claims fell within the “other” category and may need to be specified more clearly in the revised Guides.