Consumer Ombudsman raps Finnair over “unclear” environmental ad claims

Image: Grigory Vorobyev / Yle

The Consumer Ombudsman’s office has intervened in what it described as unclear environmental marketing by national carrier Finnair.

The office said that Finnair’s ads gave a misleading impression about the positive environmental impacts of the aviation fuel the airline uses.

Finnair said it would address the issue, according to the Consumer Ombudsman’s office.

The consumer advocacy organisation said it took issue with Finnair’s claim in ads that the company uses a renewable aviation fuel that “reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent”.

As of the time this article was published, Finnair’s website still carried an article that echoed such claims.

Among other things, the airline’s article said that “Neste MY Sustainable Aviation FuelTM reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%* over the fuel’s life cycle compared to using fossil jet fuel.”

The copy included an asterisk over the 80 percent figure, which led to a disclaimer at the bottom of the article: “When used in neat form (i.e. unblended) and calculated with established life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies, such as CORSIA methodology.”

Finnair noted in the article that it had purchased 750 tons of the fuel for use on flights departing from Helsinki Airport.

In 2020, Finnair announced plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025 and to be carbon-neutral by 2045.

Just 0.2%

“This corresponds to approximately 400 flights between Helsinki and Stockholm using unblended 100% SAF,” it read.

The airline’s advertising about using the fuel was shown across various outlets, including on the social media platforms X and Facebook, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and on Finnair’s Instagram account. The ombudsman’s office said the illustration in the ad emphasized eco-friendliness and an image of an airplane in the sky, followed by a green trail.

The ombudsman said that based on Finnair’s claim, consumers would not be able to know what the impact of using renewable fuel actually had on the airline’s total emissions.

For example, in the ad, it was unclear how much of the renewable fuel Finnair had acquired, what the environmental claims were compared to, nor the time frame.

The office said the ad could even be interpreted as the airline saying it had completely switched over to renewable fuel and that the firm’s emissions had been reduced by 80 percent.

Responding to the ombudsman’s concerns, Finnair sent a report which stated that the proportion of renewable aviation fuel that the airline used in 2022 only amounted to about 0.2%.

According to Finnair’s report, marketing statements that suggested the airline aimed to be carbon neutral in 2040 as part of its 2020 responsibility strategy plan. The consumer ombudsman said that it found the airline’s stated goals faced uncertainties and changes, making it difficult for consumers to evaluate them.

The ombudsman also said that information provided on Finnair’s website did not adequately back up its marketing claims, adding that consumers should be able to easily find reliable information and evidence to support the airline’s claims.

The ombudsman’s office said that Finnair has pledged to not offer misleading impressions about the environmental impacts of air travel in its marketing. The airline also promised to only use clear and precise language regarding the company’s marketing about greenhouse gas emissions.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Extra medical flights to and from Nunatsiavut to continue, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Record December passenger numbers for airports in Arctic Finland, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Air France launches flights to three destinations above the Arctic Circle, The Independent Barents Observer

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