Another greenwashing culprit bites the dust.
Etihad has been added to the ASA’s ever-growing greenwashing hit list as a result of two of their paid-for Facebook ads seen in October 2022. Only just recently was Lufthansa forced to hold their LuftHANDSa up for greenwashing This recent ruling on Etihad (published on the 12th of April 2023) demonstrates that the ASA is following through on its commitment to tackling climate change, they have really etiHAD enough of letting any green claims slip through their radar. Echoing the iconic Queen, another one bites the dust!
What were the ads in question?
The first Etihad ad had the following caption – “We understand the impact flying has on the environment. That’s why we are taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation.” The caption accompanied a video showing an Etihad plane flying with the on-screen text “With Etihad you’ll earn Etihad Guest Miles every time you make a conscious choice for the planet. The Ad ended with “Environmental Airline of the Year for 2022 in the Airline Excellence Awards”.
The second ad included the same text as above as well as “At Etihad, we are cutting back… on single-use plastics and are flying the most efficient planes. Flights with a smaller footprint… Environmental airline of the year”.
The ASA challenged whether the ad, in particular, the claims made were misleading as they exaggerated the environmental benefits of flying with Etihad.
- The claim “sustainable aviation” was not intended to be an absolute solution to the environmental impact of aviation but would be understood to be a “long-term and multi-faceted process” which encompassed an aspiration to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- The term “sustainable aviation” had been widely used and publicised in the aviation industry for years and was used by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
- Their sustainability strategy was in line with EASA’s initiatives and priorities for carbon offsetting and reduction.
- They said their “bolder” approach included restructuring their fleet to use modern fuel-efficient aircraft, developing sustainable aviation fuel production in the UAE, testing operations to optimise aircraft descent and save fuel, and using new technology to find the most efficient way to fly.
- They said they had received many notable awards which evidenced their “louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation”.
Etihad’s response did not fly with the ASA who upheld their ruling. The CAP Code requires that absolute environmental claims must be supported by a HIGH LEVEL of substantiation.
In the first Ad, apart from stating that they had won an environmental award, Etihad did not explain how “sustainable aviation” was being achieved. The ASA stated such qualifying information was crucial to a consumer’s understanding of the claims made. Furthermore, consumers would not understand “sustainable aviation” to be a term akin to a long-term aspiration as stated by Etihad.
Despite Etihad’s initiatives to reduce emissions, air travel continues to produce high levels of CO2 and non-CO2 emissions and still makes a substantial contribution to climate change. Also, the initiatives implemented were predominantly targeted to deliver results for years or decades to come. Therefore, Etihad’s reference to reducing single-use plastics and using a more efficient aircraft were not substantial enough to back up the “sustainable aviation” claim.
Lastly, even though Etihad is taking steps to reduce its environmental impact, there are no current initiatives or commercially viable technologies to date in the aviation industry which would adequately substantiate an absolute green claim such as “sustainable aviation”.
To conclude, the ASA found that the claim of “sustainable aviation” made by Etihad exaggerated the impact of flying with Etihad on the environment and so breached the CAP Code for being misleading and unsubstantiated.
Etihad’s recent tryst with the ASA highlights the ASA’s commitment to crack down on unsubstantiated and misleading green claims made by firms. Therefore, now is a good time for businesses to review their environmental claims on any marketing communications to ensure they comply with the consumer protection legislation, the CMA’s Green Claims Code and the ASA’s guidelines.
As promotional bodyguards, PromoVeritas reviews packaging and marketing communications for the brands we work with to ensure that they adhere to the relevant regulations and that consumers are not being misled. Please feel free to reach out if you would like any marketing communications to be reviewed!