February 6, 2020
Ryanair Accused Of Greenwashing Over Claim That The Airline Produces The Lowest Carbon Emissions In Europe

Ryanair has been accused of greenwashing after releasing an advertisement claiming to produce the lowest carbon emissions among all major airlines in Europe, reported The Guardian.

A U.K. advertising watchdog found that the airline's claim was not supported by the evidence they used to back it up. In the ad campaign, which was broadcast on TV and radio and through the press, Ryanair says that they have the lowest carbon emissions of any major airline, which is based on CO2 emissions per passenger per kilometer flown. It also bases this claim on having the youngest airplane fleet, the highest number of seats filled on flights, and the newest, most fuel-efficient engines.

However, the watchdog says that the data Ryanair submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is from 2011, which they found of little value as substantiation for a comparison made in 2019.

The ASA also commented on the evidence Ryanair submitted.

"In addition, some well-known airlines did not appear on the chart, so it was not clear whether they had been measured."
Another problem with the claim, according to the ASA, is that the ads did not factor in seating density, which is the number of seats per plane. The ASA stated that providing this information is important for consumers to understand the basis of the claim.
The ASA concluded that Ryanair must end the ad campaign, ruling that the airline was misleading consumers in failing to substantiate its environmental claims.
"The ads must not appear again in their current forms. We told Ryanair to ensure that when making environmental claims they held adequate evidence to substantiate them and to ensure that the basis of those claims were made clear."
The environmental group Transport & Environment has accused Ryanair of greenwashing instead of working to reduce their carbon emissions. The ads appeared just five months after the airline was named one of the first non-coal companies to appear in the E.U.'s top carbon emitter's list.

A spokeswoman for Ryanair responded to the ASA's decision to rule against the ads, stating that the company is both surprised and disappointed with the ruling. She added that Ryanair had complied fully with the advertisement regulations, while engaging with regulators and providing documentation that fulfilled all the substantiations needed.

Last year, Ryanair made their first claim that they were the greenest airline in terms of carbon emissions per passenger. The airline has also pledged to be plastic-free by 2023 in addition to providing a voluntary carbon offset payment scheme for customers during their booking.

At the end of 2019, the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Gas Bulletin found that concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide had hit record levels of 407.8 parts per million in 2018. Airplanes are one of the top carbon emitters on the planet.