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Lufthansa’s ‘green’ adverts banned in UK for misleading consumers

An ad campaign by Lufthansa claiming that its green initiatives were protecting the world has been banned by the UK advertising watchdog, which ruled it was misleading consumers over the environmental impact of flying.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the campaign – which featured a plane with an image of the Earth on its underside and the strapline: “Connecting the world. Protecting its future” – over concerns the German airline was giving consumers a “misleading impression of its environmental impact”.

Lufthansa said the tag line was “open to interpretation” and consumers would not see it as an “absolute promise” relating to the environment or that its planes did not cause harm.

It said the purpose of the poster campaign, which contained a link to its Make Change Fly environmental campaign website, was to address the need to reduce the impact of flying and making people aware of what Lufthansa is doing.

Lufthansa told the ASA that its environmental claims were based on aspirations, including becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and halving carbon emissions by 2030.

However, the ASA said consumers would view the ad as a claim that Lufthansa had already taken “significant mitigating steps” to ensure that the net environmental impact of its business was not harmful.

“Many of these initiatives [are] targeted to deliver results only years or decades into the future,” the ASA said. “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.”

The ASA banned the ad campaign, telling Lufthansa to make clearer and better substantiated environmental claims in the future and to not give a misleading impression of the impact caused by flying with the airline.

Climate change and the environment is the key and enduring issue of our age,” Miles Lockwood, the director of complaints and investigations at the ASA, said. “Advertisers in high carbon emitting sectors shouldn’t make claims that give consumers a misleading impression about their green credentials and plans or which they can’t substantiate with robust evidence.”

Lufthansa is the latest big brand to be called out by the ASA after a promise the watchdog made in September 2021 to crack down on unsubstantiated or misleading green claims by firms.

Last year, the ASA banned ad campaigns on the grounds of misleading environmental or green claims by companies including the alt-milk brand Oatley, the Pepsi-owned tea brand Lipton, and Unilever’s Persil detergent.

Others brands that have faced ASA bans in recent years include Ryanair, HSBC and the energy companies Esso and Shell.