One year and 10 months ago, we took the microphone at the KLM-AirFrance shareholders’ meeting. Our message: stop declaring that you can fly more sustainably with KLM. After all, the airline had thrown a whole series of misleading marketing messages into the world. Together with Reclame Fossielvrij (Advertising Fossil Free), we started a lawsuit, supported by Client Earth. A lot has happened between then and now, as this timeline shows.

Today there is finally a verdict. And what a verdict it is!

The court ruled that 15 of KLM’s 19 statements were misleading and therefore unlawful. These include KLM’s claims that they are moving towards “a more sustainable future”, their commitment to the Paris climate goals, and their service where customers can “offset” the environmental impact of their flight.

The court says these claims are based on vague and general statements about environmental benefits, and in advertising them KLM is misleading consumers. The court also believes that KLM paints too rosy a picture of alternative fuels (SAF) and reforestation. These solutions only marginally reduce the negative environmental aspects of flying and create the false impression that flying with KLM is sustainable, the court said.

This court case is the first in the world to take on the aviation industry’s misleading claims about sustainability. The ruling sets an important legal precedent with implications for the entire international aviation industry.  From now on, aviation companies will get away less easily with misleading sustainability claims.

The ruling is a major victory in the fight against greenwashing. But the court also missed certain opportunities. The judge did not attach any further requirements to the ruling, such as an explicit ban on similar advertising in the future. That is why it remains important to fight for a ban on fossil advertising.

Today we will celebrate, and then we will study the ruling in detail with our lawyer and decide what to do next.

📸 Laura Ponchel / Fossielvrij NL

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On Thursday evening 28 March, we will get together online to talk about the importance of this issue, and how you too can get started on tackling misleading green advertisements. Do you want to come? Sign up here

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