Lufthansa told off for misleading claims about its environmental impact

By Linsey McNeill
01/03/2023
Home » Lufthansa told off for misleading claims about its environmental impact

Advertising watchdogs have criticised Lufthansa for a poster that they say misled consumers about the environmental impact of flying with the airline.

The poster, seen in June 2022, featured a photo of an underbelly of a plane that was represented by an image of the earth from space and carried the text: “Lufthansa Group. Connecting the World. Protecting its future”.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the poster breached the advertising code because ‘the basis of the claim had not been made clear and it had not been adequately substantiated’.

In its defence, Lufthansa said the ad contained a link to a website makechangefly.com, which was part of a wider campaign to reduce the impact of flying on the environment and make consumers aware of how the airline was achieving that.

It said the tagline would not be understood to be an ‘absolute promise’ about its services and that its services caused no harm to the environment.

Since ‘connecting the world’ was not an absolute claim, Lufthansa said the average consumer would understand that ‘protecting its future’ was not an absolute claim too.

Lufthansa said the slogan would be seen by consumers to be a ‘mission statement’ to draw people to the website and raise awareness of environmental issues related to flying and the steps Lufthansa had taken to address them.

It said the website also made clear that Lufthansa was aware that the aviation industry emitted CO2, which had a negative impact on the environment.

The website outlined the steps it was taking to protect the environment, such as highlighting the purchase of new aircraft with lower fuel consumption, and how Lufthansa was one of the largest purchasers of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, it said.

Lufthansa added that, due to the qualifying information in the ad via the website link, consumers would not be misled as to its environmental impact.

However, the ASA said the slogan was ‘likely to be interpreted by consumers as an environmental reference to how Lufthansa’s approach to aviation was protecting the future of the world’.

“We noted Lufthansa’s comments that the campaign was based on specific steps taken to be more environmentally friendly, including aspirations to become carbon neutral by 2050 and to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030. However, the claim ‘PROTECTING ITS FUTURE’ was not qualified with this information,” said the ASA in its ruling.

“We considered the claim was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that Lufthansa had already taken significant mitigating steps to ensure that the net environmental impact of their business was not harmful,” it added.

“We understood that air travel produced high levels of both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions, which were making a substantial contribution to climate change.

“We noted the initiatives and targets Lufthansa said they were committed to delivering in pursuit of their stated goal, but many of these initiatives were targeted to deliver results only years or decades into the future.

“We also understood that there were currently no environmental initiatives or commercially viable technologies in the aviation industry which would substantiate the absolute green claim “PROTECTING ITS FUTURE”, as we considered consumers would interpret it.”

It told Lufthansa to ensure the basis of future environmental claims was made clear and did not give a misleading impression of the impact caused by travelling with the airline and that ‘robust substantiation’ was held to support them.

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