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ASA rulings warn airlines against making 'broad and absolute' environmental claims

Published on 06 December 2023

Regulator uses AI system to proactively search and identify online adverts that might break the rules on greenwashing

Following today's news that the ASA ruled adverts for three airlines gave a misleading impression of their environmental impact, Environment and Climate Change Practice Lead Sophie Tuson, a Senior Associate who specialises in climate and environmental sustainability at international law firm RPC said:

"In new rulings published this morning, the ASA has held that ads for Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and Etihad all gave a misleading impression of the airlines' environmental impact and therefore breached UK consumer protection law.

"The rulings follow decisions against Lufthansa and Etihad earlier this year around the use of broad, absolute claims describing the airline's environmental impact. They make it absolutely clear that given the level of emissions caused by air travel, and the current early stage development of sustainable aviation technology, like sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), it is currently almost impossible for airlines to substantiate broad claims like "sustainable", "protecting the environment", and fly with "total piece of mind".

"As these green claims all appeared in paid-for Google ads, the ASA has also made it crystal clear that space limitations are not an excuse to exclude material substantiating information to back up the green claims. In short, businesses must ensure that green claims are specific, do not omit important information and that the basis for the claim is clear to consumers.

"These latest rulings were all identified by the ASA's 'Active Ad Monitoring system', which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to proactively search for online ads that might break the rules. The ASA said last week that it is on course to process three million ads using AI this year and is planning to scale this to 10 million next year, showing how this technology is swiftly becoming a vital tool for regulators cracking down on green claims."