Delta Airlines is the latest company to face a greenwashing class action lawsuit. The complaint alleges that the company has misled its customers by making carbon neutral claims. According to the complaint, Delta advertises that it has been carbon-neutral since March 2020; however, because Delta is using carbon offsets to achieve this, the complaint alleges that the company is making representations that are “manifestly and provably false.”
While on paper the purchase of carbon offsets should account for Delta’s global emissions, the complaint claims that issues exist with the accuracy and reliability of offsets issued by a voluntary carbon offset market. The complaint alleges that the voluntary offset market is comprised of “a loose arrangement of companies and NGOs that facilitate investment in green projects such as renewable energy and prevention of deforestation,” but that these carbon neutral projects have foundational issues such as inaccurate and speculative accounting of true carbon offsets, and the fact that many of these projects were scheduled and would have occurred regardless of participating carbon offset programs. Therefore, Delta’s claims “hinge on an underlying set of representations” that Plaintiff asserts are “manifestly and provably false.”
The complaint purports that “both scientists and government regulators have specifically identified [Delta] as one of many companies who have grossly misstated the actual carbon reduction produced by their carbon offset portfolio.” If these allegations are true, this would mean that, in reality, Delta is not fully carbon neutral, as the offsets it purchases are not accurately measured.
The Plaintiff alleges the carbon neutral claims are false and misleading and that consumers would not have purchased tickets on Delta flights at all or would have paid substantially less for them had they been aware the claims were false. This assertion is consistent with the increasing trend of consumers paying market premiums for greener products and services, i.e., products and services that have a smaller carbon footprint than competitors or no carbon footprint.
This complaint was brought pursuant to California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act and California’s False Advertising, Business and Professions Code, which prohibits improper representations regarding the sale and source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of the services sold.