Ad Alert

Etihad Airways

"Sustainable aviation" may be the future but it's not the reality in 2023.

In a pair of Facebook ads, Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad Airways said it understood “the impact flying has on the environment. That’s why we are taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation.”

That term – “sustainable aviation” – caught the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority. The U.K. ad regulator challenged whether the ads exaggerated the environmental benefits of flying with Etihad.

In response to the ASA’s inquiry, Etihad said “sustainable aviation” is a widely used term in the airline industry and would be understood as an aspirational claim about meeting the long-term goals it has set for itself, such as reaching “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, as opposed to an absolute solution to the environmental impact from aviation.

But the ASA pointed out that the ads were aimed at the general public, not those in the aviation industry, and that neither ad mentioned Etihad’s desire to be “net zero” in 27 years or positioned the claim “sustainable aviation” as a long-term aspiration.

As a result, the ASA ruled that the claim “sustainable aviation” was deceptive.

The regulator told Etihad to ensure that its ads do not mislead consumers on the environmental impact of flying with the airline and that it has “robust substantiation” to support future environmental claims.

The bottom line

Every time you step on a plane, even if it’s not your own PJ, you are contributing to climate change. This is true no matter how hard airlines attempt to persuade you that flying isn’t as harmful to the environment as it actually is – or that it’s possible to “offset” your flight by purchasing carbon credits to negate the environmental effects of flying.

Of note, if you have an opinion on this or any other green marketing issue, the FTC wants to hear from you. The agency is reviewing its Green Guides and has extended its deadline for public comments to April 24. You can submit a comment here.

Find more of our coverage on greenwashing here.

You Might Be Interested In