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California Cracks Down On “Greenwashing” Claims

In October 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 343, prohibiting advertisers from making deceptive or misleading environmental marketing claims regarding their products. The law makes it unlawful to “make an untruthful, deceptive, or misleading environmental marketing claim, whether explicit or implied.”

In addition to the famous chasing arrow symbol, the law expressly identifies the following terms as suspect:

  • “environmental choice,”
  • “ecologically friendly,”
  • “earth friendly,”
  • “environmentally friendly,”
  • “ecologically sound,”
  • “environmentally sound,”
  • “environmentally safe,”
  • “ecologically safe,”
  • “environmentally lite,” and
  • “green product.”

The law expresses an intent that environmental marketing claims be “substantiated by competent and reliable evidence to prevent deceiving or misleading consumers about the environmental impact of plastic products.”

Companies that employ such terms in their advertisements or packaging must maintain written records substantiating the representation, and that such records be made available to the public upon request.

Under existing law, advertisers must refrain from making untruthful, deceptive, or misleading claims about their products. SB 343 adds to the complex legal landscape regulating advertisers in California, which includes California’s False Advertising Law (Business and Professions Code Section 17500), Unfair Competition Law (Business and Professions Code Section 17200), and compliance with the Federal Trade Commission Advertisers. SB 343 expressly covers any environmental marketing claims contained in the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.

Implementing regulations are forthcoming from California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

Best practice requires substantiating all advertising claims, including environmental marketing claims. We can help. Reach out to if you have any questions.