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Greenwashing Sustainability Brand Safety

Etihad latest airline to fall foul of ASA greenwashing rules

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By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

April 11, 2023 | 3 min read

The United Arab Emirates national airline has been asked to remove ads running in the UK suggesting it offers a sustainable method of flying.

Etihad greenwashing

The ads appeared on Facebook in October 2022 / Etihad Airways

Etihad is the latest in a string of airlines including Lufthansa, Ryanair and EasyJet to have its ads investigated and, in the former cases, removed due to breaching the ASA’s guidance on green claims.

The ads in question were two paid-for Facebook ads seen in October 2022. One text stated, “We understand the impact flying has on the environment. That’s why we are taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation” and included guidance on Etihad guests’ ‘Conscious Choice’ options. While the other included information about the airline cutting down on single-use plastic in its meal options, touting the credential, “Environmental Airline of the Year for 2022 in the Airline Excellence Awards.”

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The ASA challenged whether the ads and particularly the following claims, were misleading because they exaggerated the environmental benefits of flying with Etihad: “… we’re taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation” in the body of the text and “… you’ll earn Etihad Guest Miles every time you make a conscious choice for the planet … Environmental airline of the year” in the accompanying video; and “… we’re taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation” in the body of the text and “… we’re cutting back on single-use plastics and are flying the most efficient planes. Flights with a smaller footprint … Environmental airline of the year” in the accompanying video.

Etihad greenwashing

Etihad Airways stated that the claim “sustainable aviation” was not intended to be understood as an absolute solution to the environmental impact of aviation and it did not accept that it would be interpreted in that way. It went on to say that the claim would be widely understood as a long-term and multi-faceted process, in which Etihad had included an aspiration to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

The ASA said it noted that steps were being taken by Etihad to reduce the environmental impact of its service, but it understands that there are “currently no initiatives or commercially viable technologies in operation within the aviation industry which would adequately substantiate an absolute green claim such as “sustainable aviation” as we considered consumers would interpret it in this context.”

Greenwashing Sustainability Brand Safety

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