Regulator ACM criticizes Ryanair for ‘green’ requirements when selling airline tickets

‘Fly greener to…’? You should no longer be able to find such advertisements on the Ryanair airline website.

At the request of Dutch regulator Autoriteit Consument & Markt (ACM), Ryanair has changed such more sustainable flying claims on its website. Not only in the Netherlands, but in places all over Europe.

After an investigation, the ACM concluded that the Irish low-cost carrier may have been guilty of what is referred to as ‘greenwashing’. The site contained “potentially misleading sustainability claims” about CO2-compensation. Ryanair has now adjusted these statements.

At CO2compensation, the travelers pay a (relatively small) amount on top of their ticket price. An airline pledges to use this money to offset a flight’s carbon emissions. For example, by having trees planted in the tropics, donating cooking appliances to poor families in developing countries or supporting other sustainable projects.

CO2compensation has been under fire for some time. Critics doubt the usefulness of such measures, monitoring is said to be lacking and consumers are said not to understand the claims adequately. Furthermore, compensation does not make aviation cleaner; it only addresses one symptom of flying.

This is shown by studies from, among others, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German newspaper That time programs designed to offset emissions by saving or restoring areas of rainforest are “virtually worthless.” Based in part on scientific studies, they concluded this week that more than 90 percent of the ‘carbon credits’ (which you buy to buy off your emissions) certified by market leader Verra “are probably phantom credits”. There is no real environmental benefit in return.

Also read: CO2 compensate by planting trees – but then the forest burns down

Airline easyJet reported last year that the company is stopping its offset projects and focusing on other forms of making its activities more sustainable.

polluting form of transport

“Companies need to be honest and clear about the sustainability claims they make,” Edwin van Houten of the ACM said in a statement. “Flying is back – even with CO2offset – a very polluting form of transport. It is permissible to offer compensation, but it should not give the impression that aviation is sustainable as a result.”

Claims must be correct, clear and complete. For example, ACM will also help companies that really go green in the competition with companies that only say they take sustainability seriously.

Ryanair is not the only airline that wants to make a commitment to ACM in connection with greenwashing. The agreement that the Irish company will keep its communication about CO2-compensation is the first step.

Also read: Brussels sees a lot of ‘greenwashing’: half of the green claims are unreliable

A spokesman for ACM does not yet wish to disclose which airlines the authority has in its sights. Several investigations of companies are currently underway.

The Dutch organization Fossielvrij NL is taking action against the airline KLM on the same issue. Climate activists have launched a lawsuit over KLM’s “misleading advertising” suggesting we are already well on our way to sustainable aviation. Fossil-free NL calls CO2compensation, biofuels and other new techniques ‘false solutions’. The court has not yet decided whether the organization is admissible in this case. Later this year, or perhaps only in 2024, a first substantive examination will follow.

Incidentally, Ryanair still calls itself the ‘greenest and cleanest airline in Europe’. Among other things, the company points to the billions of euros it invests in ‘greener’ planes: New planes emit fewer harmful gases and are quieter than older planes.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary has regularly condemned the EU’s and the Netherlands’ sustainability plans in recent months. Among other things, he is disturbed by the fact that the tax on plane tickets in the Netherlands – intended as an environmental measure – only applies to locally departing passengers. It is unfair according to him; those who fly with KLM and only transfer at Schiphol do not pay ticket tax. Ryanair passengers pay that tax.

Leave a Comment