ASA bans Lufthansa ad over misleading environmental claims
The German airline is the latest in the aviation sector to face the music over greenwash accusations.
The ad appeared in June 2022 / Lufthansa
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today (March 1) announced a ban on an ad by Lufthansa that appeared in June last year as part of a wider ’#MakeChangeFly’ campaign.
The poster in question featured an image of the front of a plane in flight. The underside of the plane was represented by a picture of the earth from space. The ad included text that stated, “Lufthansa Group. Connecting the World. Protecting its Future,” with the hashtag ’#MakeChangeFly’.
The ASA challenged whether the ad gave a misleading impression of the advertiser’s environmental impact as, in isolation, the claim was ambiguous and not clearly linked to climate. However, it considered that the claim “Protecting its Future“ was likely to be interpreted by consumers as an environmental reference to how Lufthansa’s approach to aviation was protecting the future of the world.
Lufthansa claimed that the tagline was open to interpretation, but in conjunction with the imagery would not be understood as an absolute promise about its service, especially one linked to the environment, or that its services caused no harm to the environment.
The airline currently celebrates on its site that it was recently awarded a high ranking for its CO2 reduction strategy in a 2022 list by the non-profit organization CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), while elsewhere it makes clear that the firm is aware that the aviation industry emits CO2, which has a negative impact on the environment.
It also highlights the moves the airline is making to protect the environment, such as highlighting the purchase of new aircraft with lower fuel consumption and how Lufthansa is one of the largest purchasers of ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuel’.
In its ruling, the ASA noted Lufthansa’s comments that the campaign was based on specific steps taken to be more environmentally friendly, including aspirations to become carbon neutral by 2050 and to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030.
“However, the claim ‘Protecting its Future’ is not qualified with this information. We considered the claim was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that Lufthansa had already taken significant mitigating steps to ensure that the net environmental impact of their business was not harmful.
“We understood that air travel produced high levels of both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions, which were making a substantial contribution to climate change. We noted the initiatives and targets Lufthansa said it was committed to delivering in pursuit of its stated goal, but many of these initiatives were targeted to deliver results only years or decades into the future. We also understood that there were currently no environmental initiatives or commercially viable technologies in the aviation industry that would substantiate the absolute green claim ‘Protecting its Future’ as we considered consumers would interpret it.”
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Lufthansa is just the latest in a trail of aviation firms to face ad bans and further legislation for misleading environmental claims. Back in 2021, EasyJet faced an investigation over greenwashing ads placed at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow.
Meanwhile, KLM is currently facing a lawsuit over its greenwashing tactics, supported by environmental law firm Client Earth.
The ASA is also currently tightening its regulation around brands making ‘net zero’ and ‘carbon neutral’ claims – particularly where those claims are based on offset emissions.
The aviation sector will likely face further scrutiny in light of this.