Lufthansa ad banned by UK Advertising Standards Authority over greenwashing concerns

Europe’s second-largest airline, Lufthansa, has had an advert campaign removed by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a misleading tagline that claimed the organisation was ‘protecting’ the future of the world through climate-conscious activities.

Lufthansa ad banned by UK Advertising Standards Authority over greenwashing concerns

The ad in question was introduced in June 2022

The ASA, which is the UK’s advertising watchdog and has powers to ask brands to pull adverts when they break industry codes, has listed its issues with a Lufthansa that has been running since June 2022.

The ad features an image of a plane and planet Earth, with a tagline “connecting the world. Protecting its future”. The ASA has claimed that the ad was misleading consumers about the measures that aviation firms could introduce to reduce their climate impact.

The ASA stated that it “understood that there were currently no environmental initiatives or commercially viable technologies in the aviation industry which would substantiate the absolute green claim”.

Lufthansa, which is aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and halve its net-carbon emissions by 2030, states that the ad contained a clear link to the “make change fly” website which detailed more about its climate campaign that details its climate ambitions.

However, the ASA noted that the ad fails to mention any decarbonisation efforts and therefore could be construed as greenwashing.

Net-zero knowledge

Last year, the ASA published a new report looking at how consumers understand some of the most commonly used climate-related terms. The findings throw up some key considerations for brands.

According to the ASA, the most frequently-used environmental claims in advertising in the UK are now ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net-zero’. The body found that members of the general public typically did not understand what these terms meant, with those lease engaged in environmental issues likely to ignore them.

Most of the people the ASA interviewed believed that, in making these claims, businesses were not taking an offsetting-first approach – instead, they were believed to have been reducing their absolute emissions in-house.

Lufheisen is not the only company to be reprimanded by the ASA. The authority last year ruled that HSBC would need to pull two of its bus-stop advertising campaigns that it has used since 2020, with an uptick in use around COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

The ASA ruled that adverts highlighting HSBC’s support for tree planting and cleantech would mislead consumers into thinking that its financing activities had a net benefit to the environment. HSBC has since added greenwashing to a list of risks it foresees in its future ability – and the future ability of other banks – to access capital markets.

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