KLM denies greenwashing, asks court to reject ad restrictions

By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Airline KLM denied having misled consumers with advertisements including its “Fly Responsibly” campaign, and asked a Dutch court to reject a suit brought by environmental activists, according to a filing reviewed on Thursday by Reuters.

The Sept. 27 filing at Amsterdam District Court is KLM’s formal response to a closely-watched suit brought by environmental group Fossil Free seeking to prevent the airline from advertising about its sustainability efforts. The group argues all such ads are misleading “greenwashing”, given that flying is still a major source of carbon dioxide emissions.

In its response, KLM said the 19 advertisements in the suit, including its 2019 “Fly Responsibly” campaign, were not misleading, that they have now been discontinued anyway, and that it has a right to advertise.

“KLM may and must be able to communicate honestly about sustainability,” it said.

KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, acknowledges that its operations cause pollution but says it plans to reduce emissions by using more biofuel and buying more efficient aircraft.

“To achieve and maintain this, it is necessary to inform and motivate those involved,” including customers, employers, business partners and governments, it said.

In June, the airline lost a bid to have the suit dismissed. Fossil Free is seeking a public retraction and ban on future ads.

Fossil Free campaign leader Hiske Arts said the organisation was reviewing KLM’s response ahead of a Dec. 19 court hearing. A verdict is expected in February.

She questioned KLM’s commitment to reducing emissions, noting the company is fighting plans by the Dutch government to cap the number of flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport next year.

A KLM spokesperson confirmed the company has filed its response, but declined to disclose its contents.

“We look forward to the hearing of the case on Dec. 19 with confidence,” the person said.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Potter)