A landmark greenwashing lawsuit against leading airline KLM has been granted permission to proceed to a full hearing by a Dutch court, environmental law charity ClientEarth reported.

The lawsuit – the first of its kind to challenge airline industry greenwashing – claims that KLM’s climate advertisements and carbon offset marketing breached European Union (EU) consumer law standards by creating a false impression that its flights did not contribute to the worsening climate emergency, the 7 June report said.

The District Court of Amsterdam has granted permission for Dutch campaign groups Fossielvrij and Reclame Fossielvrij to bring the claim, following a hearing in April, ClientEarth wrote. The decision established – for the first time – that an environmental non-profit group could bring a greenwashing claim under the recently passed Dutch class action law.

The court’s decision came after KLM informed the judge that it had dropped its ‘Fly Responsibly’ advertisements, which were challenged by the lawsuit, the report said.

“Today’s ruling … confirms that climate organisations have a place in combating greenwashing. With the threat of this lawsuit, KLM stopped its problematic ‘Fly Responsibly’ campaign.

“But KLM continues to greenwash its growth ambition through other climate messages. It is important that the court assesses the full spectrum of KLM’s statements, because as long as the biggest polluters continue to lull us to sleep through their slick marketing campaigns, climate action will not happen,” Hiske Arts, campaigner at Fossielvrij, was quoted as saying.

Although KLM had discontinued its ‘Fly Responsibly’ ad campaign, it had not made any commitments regarding its future advertising or addressed the carbon offset marketing that was also targeted by the lawsuit, the report said.

Fossielvrij’s claim said that KLM’s marketing misled customers into thinking they could reduce their flight’s impact by supporting reforestation projects or the airline’s costs of purchasing small quantities of biofuels, ClientEarth wrote.

The lawsuit also challenged KLM’s claim that the company was “creating a more sustainable future” due to its net zero target by 2050, which the campaigners claim was contrary to its plans for continued business growth.

According to the court, it was not in dispute that the misleading allegation had sufficient merit to proceed to the next phase of the litigation, ClientEarth wrote.

“KLM’s climate publicity push extends far beyond a single campaign. This is not an isolated incident in the airline industry. The ongoing struggle to stamp out aviation greenwashing underscores the urgent need to ban fossil fuel advertising and protect the public from misleading practices that subvert climate action,” Johnny White, a lawyer from ClientEarth, added.

The Court said Fossielvrij could now consult KLM and amend its claim to focus on the advertising the airline stands by. KLM would then have six weeks to file a full defence, the report said.

ClientEarth is an environmental law charity, with offices in Asia, Europe and the USA.