Litigation against KLM on CO2 compensation: ‘New forests not guaranteed’


NOS News

  • Judith van de Hulsbeek

    editor Climate and Energy

  • Judith van de Hulsbeek

    editor Climate and Energy

The environmental organization Fossielvrij NL takes KLM to court for advertising and claims about sustainable flight and compensation for CO2 emissions. According to Fossielvrij NL, these are misleading because the airline’s customers get the impression that it is possible to fly without climate damage. The lawsuit will be filed in Amsterdam today.

Under the name CO2ZERO, KLM has for years offered customers the option of offsetting emissions from their aircraft by paying a small amount on top of the ticket price. For a return ticket to Barcelona, ​​for example, it is 3.96 euros. The money goes to replanting projects.

The company has long hailed this service as an opportunity to fly CO2-neutral, saying the impact of your flight could be “neutralized” by the shift. Earlier this year, the Advertising Code Committee reprimanded KLM for this because the company could not sufficiently substantiate these claims. Since then, KLM has adapted the campaigns and web texts. It now states that “the fastest way to reduce aviation-related CO2 emissions is not to fly”.

Incorrectly reassured

Nevertheless, according to Fossielvrij NL, consumers are still being misled. It still states that a flight’s CO2 emissions can be compensated by replanting. And they can not rightly claim that either, says Hiske Arts from the environmental organization. “The reality is that flying produces a huge amount of emissions, and the only way to reduce this is by shrinking aviation.” According to Arts, the problem with replanting projects is that the long-term effects cannot be guaranteed. “You simply can not strike it out.”

Fossielvrij NL also finds it harmful that travelers can be wrongly reassured by the compensation. “Fortunately, many people are beginning to realize that aviation cannot continue to grow, but KLM is suppressing the growing awareness with their marketing.”

KLM does not agree with the accusation. In a written response, the company says that the terms comply with laws and regulations, especially now that the texts have been adjusted. “KLM strives for transparent and honest communication about our sustainability approach. We have no interest in misinforming our customers.”

green sink?

CO2 compensation is offered by many more companies. For example, people at Shell can pay extra for kilometers driven, at Zalando for the emissions released during packaging, delivery and return of packages, and PostNL also offers extra ‘green mail’ for a small amount. It has been criticized for some time because companies that offer it are often large CO2 emitters.

Is it a kind of greenwashing, where an investment is presented as good for the environment when it is not? Experts disagree. “It is a kind of modern ecclesiastical indulgence,” says Gjalt de Jong, professor of sustainable entrepreneurship at the University of Groningen. He refers to an old custom in the Catholic Church where one could redeem his sins in exchange for money. “You pay little and can fly guiltless”. De Jong calls KLM’s campaigns “totally unlikely marketing from a company that will never be able to be truly sustainable.”

They lead the industry with sustainability initiatives.

André Nijhof, Professor of Sustainable Entrepreneurship

Others see it less black and white. André Nijhof, also Professor of Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Nyenrode Business University, agrees that CO2 compensation is a kind of symbolic policy, but greenwashing he would not call it. “It’s only if a company really does nothing, and that’s not the case at KLM. They’re leading the industry in sustainability initiatives. I’d rather see companies do this than nothing at all.”

“You should not throw the baby out with the bath water,” he said. Nijhof is also critical of the use of afforestation projects for compensation purposes because “one does not know when to plant a tree, how long it stays standing and how much CO2 it removes from the air”. But according to Nijhof, CO2 compensation can make a meaningful contribution to the climate and to accelerate energy conversion. Nijhof hopes that more people in the future will compensate, and that the money can also be used for insulation and innovation, for example.

Fossil-free Holland demands in the lawsuit that KLM completely stop advertising for CO2 compensation. It will take at least three months before the trial starts. KLM looks forward to this with confidence: “We hope a verdict in this lawsuit will give us clarity on how best to implement our communications policy.”

Leave a Comment