Unmasking the Greenwash: A Closer Look at Delta Air Lines' Carbon Neutrality Claims

Unmasking the Greenwash: A Closer Look at Delta Air Lines' Carbon Neutrality Claims
Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz / Unsplash

As a parent, I have a deep concern about the future of our planet for our children. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues we face today. We all need to play a part in mitigating its effects, including the companies we do business with. That's why I was interested to learn about the recent lawsuit filed against Delta Air Lines regarding their claim of being the "first carbon-neutral airline."

Airport departures timetable
Photo by Matthew Smith / Unsplash

Back in February 2020, Delta announced plans to go carbon neutral, pledging $1 billion to mitigate all greenhouse gas emissions from its business worldwide over the next decade. This included plans to purchase carbon credits generated from conserving rainforests, wetlands, and grasslands, along with decreasing jet fuel use and increasing plane efficiency. However, a proposed class action lawsuit was filed in California by a flyer named Mayanna Berrin, who argues that Delta has "grossly misstated" the actual carbon reduction that accompanies their investment in the carbon offset market.

According to the lawsuit, Delta has made representations suggesting that, since March 2020, it hasn't been responsible for releasing any net additional carbon into the atmosphere. The airline has pointed to its investments in the carbon offset market, which includes companies and non-governmental organizations that invest in green projects, like renewable energies. But, purchasing these carbon offsets cannot make a company carbon-neutral, Berrin said. Delta has "grossly" misrepresented the total environmental impact of its business operations, and consumers wouldn't have purchased flights — or would've only done so at substantially lower prices — had they known the truth.

The case contends that there is a significant market premium for green services and that Delta has profited from a misleading environmental claim. It cites scientific and journalistic evidence that there are deep flaws with carbon credits from the unregulated voluntary market that Delta has purchased for its environmental claims. A nine-month investigation by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit, and the investigative group SourceMaterial found that many of these carbon credits, used by a range of large corporations, were largely worthless, often based on stopping the destruction of rainforests that were not threatened.

As a concerned citizen and parent, holding companies accountable for their environmental claims is important. Transparency is key. We need to know the truth about the products and services we purchase, especially when they make claims about their environmental impact. While Delta has responded to the lawsuit stating that it is "without legal merit", and that they are a vigorous advocate for more sustainable aviation, it's clear that this issue is far from resolved.

We must continue to demand transparency and accountability from the companies we do business with. The environment and our children's future depend on it.

If you're interested in learning more, the full details of the lawsuit can be found here. Stay informed and keep asking questions. Our planet and our children's future depend on it.

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