Australian regulator considers greenwashing complaint against Etihad Airways

Australia’s competition watchdog will consider a greenwashing complaint made against Etihad Airways by a local environmental group that accused the airline on Wednesday of misleading consumers about its environmental credentials and net zero ambitions.

Several Etihad advertisements about the environmental impact of flying and the airline’s net zero emissions pledge were false and misleading “greenwashing”, according to a complaint filed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).

“We’ve pored over Etihad’s public documents and found insufficient evidence that it intends, or reasonably expects, to reach net zero by 2050,” said EDO Senior Solicitor Zoe Bush in a statement.

The ACCC told Reuters it would consider the complaint but not comment further on a potential investigation. A spokesperson added the regulator was examining “a number of concerns about greenwashing” in a range of industries.

Etihad said in a statement it was committed to net zero emissions by 2050. A sustainability report for 2022 will soon be released, a spokesperson added.

Environmental groups and regulators are stepping up action over misleading climate pledges in Australia and elsewhere. Australia’s corporate regulator last month sued local pension fund Mercer Superannuation for exaggerated claims about environment-friendly investments.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which brought the case against Mercer, is “actively monitoring” for greenwashing, Commissioner Danielle Press said in a speech on Wednesday.

Etihad advertisements during a soccer game in Melbourne last month bearing the messages “Flying shouldn’t cost the earth” and “Net zero emissions by 2050” misled and deceived because the airline had no credible path to net zero emissions, according to Flight Free Australia, which EDO represents in the complaint.

The airline’s emissions reduction plans had not been modeled and relied on offsets and speculative technology, the group added.

Dutch campaigners similarly sued a local subsidiary of Air France KLM for greenwashing last July.

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