Dutch enviros win landmark airline ‘greenwashing’ lawsuit

By Lesley Clark | 03/21/2024 06:44 AM EDT

A court faulted an Amsterdam-based air carrier for painting “a too-rosy picture” of its efforts to tackle climate change.

A KLM plane.

The Dutch air carrier KLM has lost its case against environmentalists that accused the company of misleading advertising. Franklin Jacome/Getty Images

In a first-of-its-kind ruling that could reverberate across the aviation sector, a Dutch court has found that an Amsterdam-based airline misled customers by claiming they could fly sustainably.

The District Court of Amsterdam sided with environmental groups that sued the Dutch airline KLM in 2022, arguing that the company’s advertising campaign promoting environmentally sound air travel amounted to “greenwashing,” or deceptive environmental claims.

KLM’s claims that flying can be or is becoming sustainable were misleading and therefore unlawful, the court said in a summary of its ruling. It also found that the company “paints a too-rosy picture” about its use of alternative fuels and other steps it is taking to reduce emissions.


“Those measures only marginally lessen environmental impacts and give the wrong impression that flying with KLM is sustainable,” the court said.