Environmentalists sue Dutch airline KLM for 'greenwashing'

By Merlyn Thomas Climate disinformation reporter


Environmental groups are suing Dutch airline KLM, alleging that adverts promoting the company's sustainability initiative are misleading.

The groups say it's the first lawsuit to challenge so-called airline industry "greenwashing".


They argue that KLM adverts and their carbon-offsetting scheme create the false impression that its flights won't make climate change worse.

But KLM says the company's statements are "based on solid arguments", and that it believes its adverts "comply with the applicable legislation and regulations".


Netherlands-based group Fossielvrij NL - supported by ClientEarth and Reclame.NL - is taking aim at the company's Fly Responsibly campaign, which was launched in 2019.

The campaign declared the airline is "creating a more sustainable future" and is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.


It features a carbon offset product called CO2Zero, which KLM says funds reforestation projects or the company's purchase of biofuels. Carbon offsets balance out greenhouse gas emissions from polluting activities.


But the groups argue the claims are highly misleading. They say the airline's plan to return to pre-pandemic levels of flights is at odds with the latest report by the UN climate body - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - which calls for a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


The environmental groups call the advertising campaign "greenwashing" - in other words, a misleading attempt to make the company seem environmentally friendly.


They claim products like CO2Zero do nothing to limit damage to the environment, and that by promoting it to customers, the Dutch airline is undermining action to minimise climate change. They're bringing the lawsuit under the EU's Unfair Consumer Practices Directive.


KLM says it had discussions with the environmental groups to see if there was any room for a solution other than a court case, but that it "proved impossible".


"We critically assess all our communications about sustainability, and welcome input from all our stakeholders," KLM spokesperson Marjan Rozemeijer told the BBC. "We hope that a court ruling in this case will clarify how best to shape our communications policy."


If the case in Amsterdam is successful, KLM will have to withdraw the advertising, stop any similar advertising in the future and issue corrections.


This article originally appeared in BBC News


Photo: LEX VAN LIESHOUT

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