PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

ESG News Review: One month greenwashing deadline for airlines

You sensed it had been coming.

This week, the European Union launched an investigation into what it believes are potentially misleading ‘greenwashing’ practices by 20 airlines, including claims that aviation fuel emissions are offset by sustainability initiatives.

As the Financial Times pointed out, “the airlines were not named, but the national regulators involved are Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian and Spanish.”

The airlines have been given a 30-day deadline by the EU to provide clear evidence that individual claims made in their advertising and other forms of marketing communications are robust and not misleading.

But the move may trigger an equally robust response from the airline sector, given that information shared by some firms centres on use of so-called sustainable aviation fuels that have been “supported and endorsed” by the EU, according to the trade association Airlines for Europe.

In a recent press release, the association said: “Members are already spending billions this decade on innovative technology like new aircraft and engine technology, as well as Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and are calling for government support for SAFs and zero emissions aircraft technology.” The challenge now will be to ensure that communication and claims have not outpaced that progress.

The investigation’s devil will likely be in the detail - but given the short deadline, there will be a scramble to show that the claims hold water, and that the calculations behind them are accurate and in line with EU rules. It also may throw into question other methods for offsetting emissions, such as schemes for planting trees, that are attracting increasing scrutiny.

Greenwashing concerns may be anchored on the claims used in product marketing - a recent “climate-controlled sausage” raised eyebrows - but the scope of the EU’s rules, and parallel ones due to be introduced in the US, covers any and all communication by a business about sustainable attributes. Essentially, they must be capable of being backed up by science-based evidence, not least when regulators pounce. And the financial penalties, let alone the reputational ones, can be severe.

The EU’s action has been looming for a while, its draft Green Claims Directive last month being the latest in a series of moves.

The airlines, given the nature of the flying business, are a relatively easy target. But once the findings of the probe become public, presumably next month, expect a rush amongst other sectors to ensure that evidence aligns with words.

That rush may have already begun.

The ESG News Review is written by Steve Earl, a Partner at PR agency BOLDT.

Sign up to our weekly ESG related stories by completing the form below.

* All fields are required

Important: Once completing the form we will send you a confirmation link which you will need to click on to confirm your subscription. If you do not receive this email within a couple of minutes please check your spam folder.

Please be assured that we will treat your details with care. We will never sell your details to any third parties and we will never bombard you with unnecessary email alerts.

By signing up to alerts you consent to us sending you twice weekly subscriber emails. You may manage your preferences at any time by emailing or clicking the "manage preferences" link within every newsletter.