We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

KLM misled public with ‘fly sustainably’ ads

05 Apr 2024 / environment Print

KLM misled public with ‘fly sustainably’ ads

An Amsterdam court’s decision that Dutch airline KLM misled consumers with its ‘Fly Responsibly’ advertising campaign is evidence of the developing legal framework regarding environmental claims, green claims, and greenwashing, a Pinsent Masons briefing note has said.

Amsterdam’s District Court said that the airline made “environmental claims that are based on vague and general statements about environmental benefits, thereby misleading consumers”, Pinsent Masons points out.

‘Overly rosy picture’

The Dutch court also found that the company painted “an overly rosy picture” about the sustainability of aviation fuels and, by doing so, gave “the wrong impression that flying with KLM is sustainable”.

The claim, filed in August 2022 under the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, focused on carbon-offsetting schemes that airlines use to reach carbon neutrality.

Environmentalists argued that claiming to make flying more sustainable by using these schemes was misleading, as they did not reduce the negative environmental impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The court did not require KLM to rectify the misleading claims, as the ad campaign is no longer running.

The decision follows other examples of greenwashing monitoring. The European Commission? also found that retailer Zalando misled consumers with its sustainability claims.


Greenwashing describes when a company provides misinformation on products or services by branding them ‘greener’, or more environmentally responsible than they actually are, to promote its public image.

Michelle Seel, technology-law expert at Pinsent Masons, said that the decision "aligns with the growing controls that are performed to combat greenwashing, such as upcoming regulation as part of the circular-economy plan and enforcement by authorities” and that companies were being closely watched by the European Commission, national consumer authorities and regulators when it came to their green advertisements.

There have been several legislative and regulatory developments over the past year at both EU and national level intended to address these issues, Pinsent Masons adds.

The Green Claims Directive is under discussion and, in January, MEPs adapted a new directive to protect consumers from misleading marketing, as part of the EU’s circular-economy action plan.

In the Netherlands, the Code for Sustainable Advertising entered into force as part of the Dutch Advertising Code in 2023. This code aims to stimulate the responsible use of “sustainability” claims, whether ethical or environmental claims.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland