“The picture is too rosy.” KLM airlines lost the greenwashing lawsuit

Luc Williams

“Some of KLM's advertising was unlawful because it misled consumers,” the court wrote. KLM “draws too rosy a picture” by mentioning the use of biofuel and planting trees as its environmental contributions, the court in Amsterdam explained its decision. At the same time, KLM, the Dutch part of Air France-KLM, stated that it was satisfied with the court's decision because the ruling was “clear” and did not impose any penalties on the company.

“This is a very concrete example of what we do for the sake of the environment.”

In turn, Fossil Free, a Dutch non-governmental organization that sued KLM, considered the decision to be important for the fight against greenwashing. This is the practice of companies protecting their image through alleged concern for the environment, which is in fact an advertisement that does not translate into real action.

Client Earth lawyer Johnny White, who advised the plaintiffs, said the strategy adopted by KLM is often used by the aviation industry, which is likely to be closely watching the outcome of the case.

The lawyer noted that the BEUC group representing consumers had filed a complaint with the European Commission against 17 European airlines for similar practices.

“I don't consider it greenwashing (…) This is a very specific example of what we do for the good of the environment and to change airlines for the better (…) This decision is not fair,” said Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith, commenting on the court's decision at a press conference in Brussels.

KLM stressed that the court's decision does not require the company to publish a correction or prohibit further advertising campaigns. On the other hand, the court said in its decision that KLM must be “honest and accurate” in its environmental communications.


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