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ASA bans ‘greenwashing’ ads by Manchester City sponsor Etihad


An ad campaign by Etihad Airways, highlighting its green credentials and “sustainable aviation” practices, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The watchdog ruled that the ad was misleading consumers over the environmental impact of flying with the airline.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is the national carrier of the UAE and is also the lead sponsor of Manchester City FC, including shirt sponsorship and naming rights to the club’s Etihad Stadium.

The two Facebook ads the ASA took exception to highlighted Etihad’s “louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation” and pushed the theory that choosing Etihad was a “conscious choice for the planet.” They also promoted initiatives such as cutting back on single-use plastic cutlery. The ads also referred to Etihad as “Environmental airline of the year 2022.”

The ASA did take note of steps Etihad was taking to reduce its environmental footprint, but concluded in its ruling: “We understood that there were currently no initiatives or commercially viable technologies in operation within the aviation industry which would adequately substantiate an absolute green claim such as ‘sustainable aviation’ as we considered consumers would interpret it in this context. We concluded, therefore, that the claim exaggerated the impact that flying with Etihad would have on the environment and the ads breached the [advertising] code.”

An Etihad spokesperson in a  statement the airline was “disappointed” by the decision. The statement continued: “Sustainability is a key priority for Etihad, which runs a comprehensive research and development programme to address aviation decarbonisation, working to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment by investing billions into its fleet of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft, research into sustainable aviation fuels, as well as carbon offsetting and reforestation through the Etihad Mangroves.

“Etihad is proud to have been awarded Environmental Airline of the Year for 2022 in the Airline Excellence Awards, in recognition of the steps it has already taken. The airline will continue to take bold and innovative steps including partnering with aircraft and engine manufacturers, sustainable fuel suppliers, academia and innovators to make flying more sustainable than it would be without such steps.” 

Etihad is not the first airline to be caught out over “greenwashing” by ASA rules. Last month it banned a campaign by the German carrier Lufthansa over claims its green initiatives were “protecting the world.”



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