EU scrutinises airlines’ use of SAF and eco-marketing claims


The European Commission (EC) is taking action against 20 airlines for potentially misleading consumers about their greenwashing claims.

This comes after an alert from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) raised concerns about airlines’ use of terms like “sustainable” and “carbon offset” to downplay the significant environmental impact of flying.

“The Commission is fully committed to empowering consumers in the green transition and fighting greenwashing. We expect airlines, as well as any other industry operator, to make a responsible use of environmental claims,” said Věra Jourová, vice-president for values and transparency, European Commission.

The EC, along with consumer protection authorities, found several red flags in airline marketing. These include:

  • Charging extra fees by overstating the effectiveness of carbon offsets and sustainable fuels: Airlines might suggest that paying extra to offset emissions or support sustainable fuels negates the flight’s environmental impact. However, the effectiveness of offsets and the wide availability of sustainable fuels are currently under debate.
  • Vague environmental claims: Airlines using terms like “green” or “sustainable” without clear justification raise concerns.
  • Unrealistic promises and lack of transparency: Claims of achieving net-zero emissions without concrete plans or independent monitoring.
  • Unreliable carbon footprint calculators and flight comparisons: Airlines offer tools to calculate a flight’s carbon footprint or compare emissions between flights, but the accuracy and methodology behind these tools are often unclear.

The EC and consumer protection authorities have given the airlines 30 days to respond with measures addressing these concerns.

This could involve providing clear evidence to support environmental claims, improving the transparency of carbon offsetting and sustainable fuel programs, and ensuring the accuracy of carbon footprint calculators and flight comparisons.

After receiving replies from the airlines, the Commission will discuss the solutions proposed by the companies. The Commission will also monitor the implementation of the agreed-upon changes.

However, if the airlines involved do not take the necessary steps to solve concerns raised, CPC authorities can decide to take further enforcement actions, including sanctions.