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Airlines, particularly those in Europe, have been on thin ice with regulators lately. Seventeen European airlines were called out by an NGO for alleged greenwashing last summer, and Austrian Airlines was ordered to retract certain sustainability claims in the fall. In the US, Delta is facing a consumer lawsuit against the company’s use of carbon offsets. Another greenwashing case was added to the pile when a Dutch court ruled that KLM’s environmental claims were misleading. ESG Today reports:

“The lawsuit, launched in 2022, challenged the airline’s ‘Fly Responsibly’ advertisements, claiming that the ads and offset marketing violated the standards set by EU consumer law by suggesting that KLM flights do not contribute to the escalating climate crisis. According to the complaint, the advertising campaign was misleading as it argued that the airline industry’s climate solutions such as using biofuels and synthetic fuels are not sufficient to make flying sustainable, and as KLM’s CO2ZERO offering enabling passengers booking flights to use carbon offset products to ‘reduce your impact’ suggests that emissions from flying can be offset or reduced through planting trees.”

While this decision stopped one instance of greenwashing, Climate in the Courts points out in their coverage that many more instances continue to emerge on a regular basis. The article points to some who feel that fossil fuels heavy sectors, such as the airline industry, should be banned from advertising on sustainability grounds generally. While we may not see action that drastic, the EU’s strategy to prevent greenwashing including the Directive to Empower Consumers and Green Claims Directive is likely to make it more difficult for misleading advertisements to fly under the radar in the future.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile