KLM Accused of Greenwashing in a Lawsuit Regarding Its 'Fly Responsibly' Ads

Published on: 06 July 2022
by KnowESG
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Dutch environmental pressure groups have filed a lawsuit against KLM, alleging that its "Fly Responsibly" advertising campaign constitutes greenwashing. It is one of the first such lawsuits to shake a major airline.

According to a statement from Amsterdam-based campaign leader Fossielvrij, KLM has launched advertisements that give passengers "the misleading impression that its flights won't worsen the climate emergency," in violation of European Union standards. The case was filed at a court in the Dutch capital on Wednesday morning.

As economically feasible alternatives such as electric and hydrogen-powered jetliners are still at least a decade away, airlines rely on carbon offsetting to mitigate their environmental effects. However, such programmes are typically optional and require clients to pay extra. In April, the Dutch advertising watchdog ruled that KLM’s promotion telling customers they could fly emission-free was misleading.

The Dutch Advertising Code Committee ruled that the advertisement's tag line, "Be a hero, fly CO2 zero," is an unequivocal claim. As such, the company bears the burden of proving the veracity of this claim, which it failed to do, according to the committee.

KLM indicates on its website that clients can contribute to reforestation programmes through its offset project. In exchange, KLM claims to purchase verified carbon credits for a Panamanian forestry project. These methods are prevalent in the aviation sector.

Additionally, European regulators are taking a tougher position on greenwashing accusations in other businesses. Last month, German authorities raided the headquarters of asset management business DWS Group as part of an investigation into claims by a former DWS executive that the company exaggerated its ESG credentials.

Source: Bloomberg

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