The Dutch national carrier KLM has rejected claims that its adverts are misleading and asked a judge to throw out a case accusing the airline of “greenwashing”, reports Reuters.
In the suit, mounted by the environmental pressure group Fossil Free, KLM is accused of misleading consumers with its “Fly Responsibly” promotional campaign. 19 advertisements come under the scope of the case, which KLM tried, and failed, to have dismissed earlier this year.
KLM is just one airline among many facing criticism and legal action for allegedly false claims about the impact of carbon offsetting programmes and other sustainability efforts. In a similar previous case, Ryanair had its advertising restricted by the UK courts.
The case, which some compare to the trials of the anti-tobacco movement, hinges on the idea that, as a major carbon polluter, an airline cannot claim to have serious eco-credentials.
With so many other similar cases pending, the legal decision will be closely monitored.
Can you be green without being seen?
In its response filing, the airline denies the idea that the adverts were misleading, points out that the campaign has ended now anyway, and highlights that even if it is a polluter, it has a “right to advertise”.
“KLM may and must be able to communicate honestly about sustainability,” the filing notes. It goes on to argue that the airline will not be successful in its eco efforts, which include reducing emissions, improving aircraft efficiency, and increasing the use of SAF or biofuel, if it is not allowed to “inform and motivate those involved.”
The airline said it needs to advertise to communicate with stakeholders such as customers, employers, business partners and governments.
The airline’s eco credentials are not only scrutinised in advertising it has had a hand in designing, but also when it hits the headlines for other reasons. It is currently involved in a wrangle with the Dutch government about night flights and noise regulations compliance at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
Fossil Free’s campaign leader, Hiske Arts, has been quick to point out this irony and question the hypocrisy of posing as a green business on one hand, while opposing the government’s plans to reduce noise pollution.
What happens next?
Arts told Reuters the group would now review KLM’s response. The next court date will be in mid-December and a judgement is not expected until February 2024.
If successful, Fossil Free will be looking not only for a ban on future advertising but also for KLM to be forced to publicly retract their environmental claims.