Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2020


Fraudulent and deceptive environmental claims in marketing (sometimes called “greenwashing”) are a persistent problem in the United States, despite nearly thirty years of efforts by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prevent it. This Essay focuses on a recent trend in greenwashing - fraudulent “organic” claims for nonagricultural products, such as home goods and personal care products. We offer three recommendations. First, we suggest ways that the FTC can strengthen its oversight of “organic” claims for nonagricultural products and improve coordination with the USDA. Second, we argue for inclusion of guidelines for “organic” claims in the next revision of the FTC’s Guidelines for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (often referred to as the “Green Guides”), which the FTC is scheduled to revise in 2022. Finally, we assert that the FTC should formalize the Green Guides as binding regulations, rather than their current form as nonbinding interpretive guidance, as the USDA has done for the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. This Essay concludes that more robust regulatory oversight of “organic” claims, together with efforts by the FTC to prevent other forms of greenwashing, will ultimately bolster demand for sustainable products and incentivize manufacturers to innovate to meet this demand.



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