Environmental groups file lawsuit against KLM for ‘greenwashing’

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Environmental groups are suing KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, claiming that its ‘Fly Responsibility’ campaign is misleading. 

The organization, Fossielvrij NL, backed by Reclame Fossielvrij and lawyers from ClientEarth, filed the legal claim in the District Court of Amsterdam on July 6, 2022, according to a statement released by ClientEarth. 

The environmental groups claim that KLM’s ‘Fly Responsibly’ campaign breaches the Dutch implementation of the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive by giving customers the false impression that its flights won’t make climate change worse. 

“We warned that if KLM did not stop its misleading advertising, we would see them in court,” said Hiske Arts, campaigner at Fossielvrij NL, in the statement. 

The lawsuit follows a “pre-action letterdelivered to KLM during its Annual General Meeting on May 24, 2022. 

Prior to the filing, KLM refuted the accusations of the “pre-action letter” in a meeting with Fossielvrij on June 24, 2022. In the meeting, KLM’s representatives said that they were looking at the reforestation offset marketing in the wake of an ad regulator finding against it, according to ClientEarth 

KLM’s environmental initiatives, accentuated by its ‘Fly Responsiblycampaign, were launched in December 2021 and aim to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. KLM hopes to achieve this by renewing its fleet with hydrogen and electric planes from 2035 and by scaling up its use of synthetic kerosene. 

“Offsets marketing is yet another dangerous distraction from what KLM and the airline industry needs to do to address the climate crisis: to stop unsustainable ‘business as usual’ air traffic growth,” said Johnny White, a lawyer for ClientEarth lawyer, in the organizations own statement.  

“KLM has instead stuck by the false message that it is on the path to more sustainable flying. There is no way it can do this while planning continuous air traffic growth that will fuel the breakdown of our climate. KLM will now have to defend its misleading claims before a judge,” the statement said. 

In a statement issued to Reuters, KLM said: “It would certainly not be in our interests to misinform our customers. It’s our responsibility to make future travel as sustainable as possible. We believe that our communications comply with the applicable legislation and regulations.” 

The court is still to make a decision regarding the claim. If approved to proceed, KLM will have to give its defense, ClientEarth said.  

KLM is not the only European airline to face pressure as a result of its advertising. Ryanair and easyJet have also faced similar actions from climate activists and regulators, according to a May 2022 report by The Drum. 


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