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Good Question

According to The New York Times, on Tuesday The Federal Trade Commission held its first hearing in a series focused on green marketing and raised the question as to where the “more than $54 million [spent by corporations and shoppers in the United States] last year on carbon offset credits towards tree planting, wind farms, solar plants and other projects to balance the emissions created by, say, using a laptop computer or flying on a jet” is exactly going.

The issue strikes me as particularly timely this week after having spent the couple of days strolling the floor at International CES in Las Vegas. The trend has been growing over time, but to me it seems that an almost overwhelming number of companies have hopped on the green train (a hydrogen fuel cell powered train, I imagine) and have found any number of ways to eke out marketing messages showing off their environmentally conscious efforts.

The degree to which this trend has permeated our industry has never been clearer to me than it was this week as I walked from booth to booth and overheard snatches of conversations where product demonstrators, marketing specialists and the like could often be heard touting the environmental benefits of whatever they happened to be showing.

Heck, the CEA itself even climbed on board this year as it planned the 2008 CES. It made an effort to “go green” by reducing the show’s carbon footprint and using sustainable and efficient energy practices.

It’s important to note, as the Times did, that “The F.T.C. has not accused anyone of wrongdoing – neither the providers of carbon offsets nor the consumer brands that sell them. But environmentalists say — and the F.T.C.’s hearings suggest — that it is only a matter of time until the market faces greater scrutiny from the government or environmental organizations.”

This, to me, seems a worthwhile point, especially as the F.T.C. has reportedly not updated its Green Guides (environmental advertising guidelines) since 1998.

I commend the Commission for taking the initiative and hopefully setting new guidelines soon in an effort to prevent possible deception down the line.

P.S. It’s also important to note that I, like the F.T.C., am also not accusing anyone of wrongdoing by bringing this issue to your attention. I simply thought it was something those in our industry should be aware of.