Airline Advertisements Banned for Misleading Consumers about Environmental Impact

In a significant move to hold airlines accountable for their environmental claims, adverts for Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ads, which promoted the airlines’ commitment to protecting the environment and flying sustainably, were deemed misleading and guilty of “greenwashing.” This ruling comes as part of the ASA’s efforts to crack down on companies that overstate their environmental friendliness, known as corporate greenwashing.

Air France’s advertisement claimed that it was committed to protecting the environment, suggesting that it offered a sustainable and eco-friendly way to travel by air. Lufthansa’s ad encouraged passengers to fly more sustainably, while Etihad’s ad used the phrase “environmental advocacy.” However, the ASA found that these advertisements failed to address the airlines’ actual impact on climate change, thus misleading consumers.

The ASA stated that Air France did not provide a substantive response to its investigation and ignored requests for comment from the BBC. In response to the complaint, Lufthansa and Etihad promptly removed their ads. Lufthansa clarified that “fly more sustainably” referred to its “Green Fares” option, which utilized some sustainable aviation fuel and contributed to climate protection projects. The airline also expressed its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and pledged to exclude “fly more sustainably” from future advertisements. Similarly, Etihad Airways removed all references to “environmental advocacy” from its paid-for Google search ads.

This ruling serves as a warning to airlines and other companies that they must provide accurate and transparent information regarding their environmental practices. The ASA’s AI system, responsible for spotting possible rule violations, has been instrumental in identifying greenwashing advertisements. The watchdog’s decision reflects a growing trend of increased scrutiny on companies to reduce their carbon emissions, with airlines facing mounting pressure to minimize their environmental footprint.

Notably, this is not the first time Lufthansa has faced criticism from the ASA for greenwashing. In a previous ruling, the airline’s Make Change Fly campaign was found to have misled consumers into believing that it had already taken significant steps to mitigate its environmental impact. Lufthansa argued that the intention of the ad was to raise awareness about the need to reduce flying’s environmental consequences. However, the ASA maintained that air travel’s high levels of CO2 and non-CO2 emissions greatly contribute to climate change.

The ASA’s ruling adds to an increasing number of advertisements banned due to greenwashing. Various companies, such as Persil, HSBC, Shell, Innocent, and Oatly, have faced similar actions for misleading consumers. Even funeral providers Golden Leaves and JC Atkinson & Son have not been spared. The intensifying scrutiny on carbon emissions has prompted the UK government to take decisive action, including the requirement for 10% of aviation fuel to be sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.

While the first transatlantic flight powered solely by SAF marked a milestone for greener air travel, SAF currently accounts for less than 0.1% of global aviation fuel consumption, and the UK does not yet have dedicated commercial SAF plants. As the world strives for a more sustainable future, it is crucial for companies, particularly airlines, to be transparent and accountable with their environmental claims. Greenwashing must be addressed to ensure that consumers make informed decisions and meaningful progress is made in combating climate change.