Greenwashing: EU cracks down on airlines’ misleading policies

EU authorities are clamping down on the potentially greenwashing practices of airlines on the continent by issuing a warning masked as an invitation to bring their practices into line with current EU consumer laws within 30 days.  

Greenwashing is a term often applied to economic entities that try to capitalise on unsubstantiated eco-friendly claims through marketing strategies that imply they are acting in an enhanced ecological manner.  

Certain airlines, for example, allege that they are offsetting carbon emissions through climate projects or are using of sustainable fuels, and ask passengers to contribute to the affiliated costs by charging additional fees.  

Other examples include the use of vague wording and statements such as “green, sustainable or responsible in an absolute way” and the throwaway use of terms such as “net-zero” without empirical proof of actions that back up the phrase. 

According to EU representatives, 20 airlines have been contacted regarding their attempts to greenwash their activities. These airlines have, via the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), the European Commission and EU consumer authorities (CPC), been invited to bring their practices into line with current EU consumer law within the next 30 days.  

“If we want responsible consumers, we need to provide them with accurate information,” says Věra Jourová, the EC’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency. “More and more travellers  care about their environmental footprint and choose products and services with better environmental performance. They deserve accurate and scientific answers, not vague or false claims. The Commission is fully committed to empowering consumers in the green transition and fighting greenwashing. We expect airlines, as well as any other industry operator, to make a responsible use of environmental claims.” 

Airlines are being asked to respond to the allegations set out in the official letters with concrete measures that will correct their practices or to verify their marketing claims in meetings with the CPC.  

If any airlines fail to respond, they may face sanctions, such as fines or penalties, in the near future.

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