No such thing as green flying?

The ASA has recently claimed that there is no such thing as green flying after recently preventing a sustainability-related advertisement from a commercial airline. While increased scrutiny towards potential greenwashing is welcomed, should regulatory boards be more wary of tarnishing an entire industry with the same brush? 

The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) recently made headlines for their decision to ban an advertisement for a major commercial airline, claiming that they were ‘misleading consumers over the environmental impact of flying’. Last year, one of the Facebook advertisements displayed by the airline showcased an airplane with the message, “We comprehend the ecological consequences of air travel.” The advertisement further asserted that the airline was adopting a more forceful and assertive strategy towards sustainable aviation. 

The second advertisement exhibited an image of a tray and cutlery, assuring customers of the airline’s efforts to reduce the usage of disposable plastics. The airline, located in Abu Dhabi, affirmed that its aircraft were the most advanced and effective, resulting in a smaller environmental impact. 

Advertising watchdogs are a vital component of the consumer protection framework. By scrutinising the marketing campaigns of the aviation industry, these watchdogs serve to hold airlines accountable for their promises, protecting consumers from misleading or deceptive advertising practices. They ensure that airlines can’t simply make vague or unsupported claims about their environmental impact or the quality of their services and provide a much-needed check on an industry that has the potential to do a great deal of harm if left unchecked. It’s a crucial job, and one that ultimately benefits us all by creating a fairer and more transparent marketplace for air travel. 

However, to paint the entire industry with the same brush would be a huge oversimplification and would do a disservice to the many stakeholders of the industry who take their responsibilities to consumers and the environment seriously. There is a fine balance between acknowledging incremental initiatives, while also calling out beguiling promises and over-exaggerated claims. 

On one hand, this is an indicator of both the mainstream media and the general public’s opinion of the aviation industry’s current efforts. The claims that there is no such thing as green flying prove that there is a lack of awareness surrounding genuine sustainability initiatives. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is perhaps one the most accurate examples of a credible solution in the aviation industry that doesn’t get the attention it deserves simply due to the lack of headline appeal. SAF is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also a safe option for airlines. As a matter of fact, over 500,000 commercial flights have already used SAF since 2016.   

One of the exciting developments with SAF is the credible and innovative models that are making it more accessible to airlines and passengers alike. For example, Victor’s ‘Pay Here, Use There’ blueprint, created in partnership with Neste, enables customers to purchase SAF every time they book flights. We’re delighted to share that one in five of our customers are voluntarily buying SAF, and on average, they are spending over £1,000 – which equates to around 500kg. This is a clear indication of the growing demand for sustainable air travel. 

SAF isn’t perfect, however, very few solutions are. Even electric vehicles, which were not long ago touted to be a silver bullet for the car industry, are being scrutinised for the role they play in the increased mining of cobalt, an essential mineral used in the production of batteries for electric vehicles. Most cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the industry is plagued by issues such as unsafe working conditions, child labour, and environmental degradation. It is an essential reminder that in some parts of the world, the climate catastrophe has already begun – and that every industry should be doing all it can to mitigate climate damage and champion credible initiatives. 

If you would like to learn more about our sustainability initiatives, feel free to get in touch