UK regulator bans ‘greenwashing’ ad campaigns from Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad

The ASA ruled on Wednesday (6 December) that online ad campaigns on Google paid for by Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad “gave a misleading impression” of these business’s environmental impacts.

The Air France advert which has been running since July stated that the airline is “committed to protecting the environment” and nudged customers to choose its long-haul flights between the UK and Thailand to “travel better and sustainably”.

Such “absolute” claims, concerning the entirety of a firm’s business models, need to be supported by a “high level of substantiation”, the ASA states. It ruled that Air France failed to provide consumers with access to detailed information about its overall environmental impact and strategy.

Air France did not provide a “substantive response” for the ASA’s investigation into this ad campaign, the regulator said.

Lufthansa, meanwhile, was rapped by the ASA for an ad campaign this summer stating that passengers could “fly more sustainably” by choosing its “Green Fares”. The fares come with a built-in payment for carbon offsetting and to fund the carrier’s investment in alternative aviation fuels.

The ASA ruled that the claim was unquantified due to a lack of detail. Lufthansa argued that Google Callouts do not enable for more than “very limited” information to be included but the ASA said “material information” was missing.

Also this summer, Etihad claimed that it offered “environmental advocacy” along with its “award-winning service”. The UAE-based airline has agreed not to use the phrase again in Google Callouts.

The ASA ruled that by conflating “total peace of mind” with the airline’s service, with its environmental work, customers could reasonably expect the business to have implemented a complete package of measures to mitigate its climate impact.

The ASA also stated that it has seen no evidence that Etihad is engaged in environmental advocacy.

Both Lufthansa and Etihad were ordered to remove other adverts on greenwashing grounds this spring. Other airlines including KLM had previously been called up by the ASA.

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