Very Cheap Sustainability: How Ryanair Fools Consumers and Harm Developing Countries


Ryanair has introduced an innovative business model that has allowed millions of citizens to travel at a low cost inside of Europe. Their business model is to take advantage of every opportunity to make a profit, and the model risks – as reported by many judgments of the European authorities – abusing consumer rights with rather questionable policies. The organizational ethics of the company is in strong doubt.

SUSTAINABILITY     Ryanair desperately needs to prove itself sustainable. It is a very complicated problem in the air transport sector. So Ryanair devises tricks to lower – or at least make us believe they are lowering –  their impact on the environment.

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PALMA OIL      Ryanair tells us that there is no palm oil in many of the products sold on board. Not in all. In the products that are the best and sell the most, palm oil remains. Palm oil disappears from products where the suppliers have taken it out – like Barilla – or from those – like water – in which there has never been palm oil.

THE TRICK      Ryanair deceives us into believing that it wants to save the world,  but it is trickery. We feel cheated. And being palm oil, we can be sure that no European authority will intervene.

Ryanair wants us to believe that we are sustainable by removing palm oil and distracts us from what the real problems are, the pollution produced by the airline. In addition, they barely remove palm oil, they simply tell us products that never contained palm oil, don’t contain palm oil now

In the past, other companies in the area, such as KLM, had undertaken marketing campaigns that demonized palm oil. The Dutch company then realized their error and stopped the anti-palm oil advertising and apologized publicly.

THE SOLUTION      If you really want to save the planet, you can easily access products that contain sustainable palm oil,  that is to say, produced in a way that is environmentally friendly and respects human rights. The palm oil supply chain is the only one guaranteed by several sustainability certifications. No alternative to palm oil has sustainability certification.

If this was Ryanair’s policy, then it shouldn’t sell anything on their menus.

Why? Because the first cause of deforestation in the world is not palm oil.

Why does Ryanair not eliminate meat from its menus instead? After all, intensive cattle farms are the leading cause of deforestation in the world.

It should also eliminate butter, and products that contain rapeseed, sunflower, and soybean oil, which have an LCA –  Life Cycle Assesment  worse than palm oil.

Ryanair also alludes to a nutritional improvement in palm oil-free products. This is not true at all. As demonstrated by several studies, including ours, there is no substantial reduction in saturated fats by replacing palm oil with canola oil or sunflower oil.

A serious company that respects the planet and consumers, and that promotes sustainability,  would commit itself to using and promoting sustainable palm oil.

A company that has little morality, and who is very hungry for money, would follow the short-term thought process of joining the palm oil-free fashion, using products with less sustainable ingredients and deceiving the consumer.

Of course, Ryanair, which goes to extremes with all of its actions, has ended up indicating that the water sold on board is without palm oil. This should be enough to understand the company. Even the lasagna does not include palm oil. As it happens, these products are produced by their new partner, Barilla. Barilla which is yet another company that, not knowing how to innovate their products to match the quality of palm oil mitigated by its sustainable supply chain, preferred to use the boycott tool to continue selling its products.

For Free Choice aims to promote scientific information and method in public discourse. For Free Choice also defends consumers’ choice rights against the smear and demonizing campaigns which aim to confuse them and benefit specific interests.


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