Activists hand KLM ultimatum for ‘greenwashing’ case
Dutch environmental groups on Tuesday said they would take KLM to court for “misleading adverts” that promoted the sustainability of flying, giving the national carrier two weeks to change the commercials.
The lawsuit, to be filed at the Amsterdam District Court, would be the first case to challenge airline industry “greenwashing”, the Dutch Fossielvrij NL foundation said.
The ultimatum was handed to KLM’s management at an Air France-KLM shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday.
“The letter demands that KLM must change their marketing. If they don’t do it within two weeks, we’ll go to court,” Fossielvrij NL’s director Liset Meddens told AFP.
“The lawsuit will argue that KLM’s ad campaigns and ‘compensation’ schemes violate European consumer laws as they give a false impression over the sustainability of its flights and plans to address climate harm,” the foundation added.
The legal action will centre on KLM’s “Fly Responsibly” campaign which represented the airline as “creating a more sustainable future” and on track to reduce its emissions to net zero by 2050, Fossielvrij NL said.
“These claims are highly misleading, since KLM’s plan for continual increases in flying is at odds with the rapid and deep emissions reductions” needed to avoid the worst impact of climate change, it said.
It said KLM’s campaign included offers for customers to buy a carbon offset product — called CO2ZERO — by paying for reforestation projects or to buy biofuels.
The environmental groups argue that “these products do nothing to limit the damage the airline industry causes to the climate.”
“By promoting them to customers, KLM’s marketing undermines urgent action to minimise climate catastrophe,” Fossielvrij NL said.
Last month the Dutch advertising watchdog also slapped KLM for adverts using terms like “CO2ZERO” and CO-neutral, saying it was “misleading because in practice the promised result cannot be absolutely guaranteed”.
The Advertising Standards Commission (RCC) urged KLM “not to make adverts in this manner”.
Answering questions from activists at the shareholders’ meeting, outgoing KLM chief executive Pieter Elbers said “the initiatives we’re taking both individually as an airline and collectively as a group of airlines are precisely to deal with climate change.”
“Are we there yet? No. But are we making progress? Absolutely yes. Are we committed as an industry to move forward? Absolutely.”
“We’re fully committed to reducing that impact, we’ll continue to do so,” Elbers said.