Dutch environmental organization scores court win over KLM in greenwashing case 

KLM and its pilot union, the VNV, agreed to a new deal, averting a strike at the last minute
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A Dutch court has ruled that KLM misled customers in a case brought against the carrier by an environmental group which accused the airline of ‘greenwashing’ 

The district court of Amsterdam ruled in favor of environmental organization “Fossielvrij” (which means “Fossil Free” in Dutch), which accused the Dutch flag carrier of misleading advertising. 

According to the court, the airline made a number of vague and unsubstantiated claims that minimized the environmental impact of flying in its “Fly Responsibly” ad campaign. 

However, the ruling neither forces KLM to retract information (the advertising campaigns in question are no longer active) nor has it imposed a penalty on the airline. Instead, the court warned the airline to be more accurate and transparent in future communication regarding environmental issues. 

Following the court’s decision, KLM publicly acknowledged the ruling in a statement on its website, stating that its “communication about sustainability must be honest and transparent”. The carrier also said it was “pleased” the court had ruled that it could “continue to communicate with our customers and partners about our approach to making aviation more sustainable”. 

The carrier added that it was “continuously learning how best to include them in this”. 

“It is good that the court gives us more clarity about what is possible and how we can continue to communicate transparently and honestly about our approach and activities,” the airline concluded in its official statement

Far from being an isolated case, the recent greenwashing case is one of several legal challenges filed by environmental groups against airlines for their advertising campaigns. For example, over the course of 2023 the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency banned ads by a handful of airlines, including Etihad, Air France and Lufthansa, on the grounds that they misrepresented environmental claims. 

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