The world’s biggest companies accused of exaggerating their climate actions

Extinction Rebellion and other climate change activist groups organized a green march during COP26 to call on world leaders to act appropriately on the issue of fighting climate change and end their destructive habits current. The rally took place on November 3, 2021 outside the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, in Glasgow, UK.

Andrew Aitchison | In pictures | Getty Images

The climate pledges of the world’s biggest companies plan to cut absolute carbon emissions by just 40% on average, not 100% as their net-zero claims suggest, according to a study of 25 companies.

The analysis, released Monday by non-profit organizations NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch, found that the climate commitments of most large multinational companies cannot be taken at face value.

The study assessed the transparency of each of the company’s climate commitments and assigned them an “integrity” rating. It rated them based on criteria such as their climate goals, the amount of offsets they planned to use and the reliability of those offsets, progress in reducing emissions and transparency.

Amazon, Google and Volkswagen were among the names known to have low integrity on their net zero targets, while Unilever, Nestlé and BMW Group were found to have very low integrity.

None of the large multinationals was found to have high integrity overall. Maesrk came out on top with reasonable integrity, according to the report, followed by Apple, Sony and Vodafone with moderate integrity.

TBEN has contacted the companies mentioned in the report for comment. Some disagreed with the methods used in the study and said they were committed to taking action to stem the climate crisis.

Benjamin Ware, global head of climate delivery and sustainable sourcing at Nestlé, said the company’s greenhouse gas emissions had already peaked and were continuing to decline. “We welcome the scrutiny of our climate change actions and commitments. However, the New Climate Institute’s Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor (CCRM) report does not understand our approach and contains material inaccuracies.”

Separately, an Amazon spokesperson told TBEN: “We set these ambitious goals because we know climate change is a serious issue and the need for action is greater than ever. of our goal of achieving net zero carbon by 2040, Amazon is on track to power our operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025.”

And a Volkswagen spokesperson commented: “We agree with the New Climate Institute’s goals that large companies should be held accountable for their claims in a clear and transparent way. We only disagree with some of their findings regarding our business.”

It comes at a time when businesses are under immense pressure to reduce their environmental impact amid a worsening climate emergency.

The 25 companies assessed represent about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the report said. This reaffirms the scale of their carbon footprint and highlights the potential they have to lead the effort to tackle the climate crisis.

Thomas Day, climate policy analyst at the NewClimate Institute and lead author of the study, said: “We set out to uncover as many replicable good practices as possible, but we were frankly surprised and disappointed with the overall integrity of the company claims”.

He added: “As the pressure on companies to act on climate change increases, their ambitious headlines too often lack real substance, which can mislead both consumers and regulators who are in charge. core direction of their strategic direction. Even companies that do this exaggerate their actions relatively well.”

“Stop this greenwashing trend”

Short-term climate goals have proven to be of particular concern.

The report found that the world’s largest companies are on track to cut their emissions by just 23% on average by 2030. This is well below the figure of almost half of emissions over the next decade which, according to the world’s leading climatologists, is necessary to avoid the most devastating effects of the climate emergency.

For the minority of the 25 companies assessed, the report indicates that the major climate commitments constitute a useful long-term vision and are supported by specific short-term objectives.

However, many of the promises turned out to be undermined by controversial plans to cut emissions elsewhere, hidden critical information or accounting tricks.

Almost all of the companies assessed were likely to rely on carbon offsets of varying quality, according to the report.

Carbon offsetting is the controversial practice by which polluting companies pay for projects elsewhere to reduce or remove carbon, usually by maintaining forests or growing new trees.

Campaign groups are strongly critical of carbon offsets, saying they allow a business as usual approach to continue releasing greenhouse gases. Proponents say they are a useful tool in stemming the climate crisis.

The core climate commitments of only three of the 25 companies – Maersk, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom – were found to have clear commitments to deep decarbonize more than 90% of all of their value chain emissions.

The study concluded that, overall, the strategies in place would reduce emissions by an average of 40% if implemented. That’s a far cry from the 100% indicated by many companies’ net zero and carbon neutral claims, the report said.

Additionally, the way companies speak publicly about their climate commitments was seen as an issue.

“Misleading advertisements by companies have a real impact on consumers and decision-makers. We are fooled into thinking that these companies are taking sufficient measures, when the reality is far from the right one”, said Gilles Dufrasne, head of policies at Carbon Market Watch, in a statement. .

“Without more regulation, this will continue. We need governments and regulators to step up and stop this trend of greenwashing.”

The full list of companies assessed was: Maersk, Apple, Sony, Vodafone, Amazon, Deutsche Telekom, Enel, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hitachi, Ikea, Vale, Volkswagen, Walmart, Accenture, BMW Group, Carrefour, CVS Health, Deutsche Post DHL. , E.On SE, JBS, Nestlé, Novartis, Saint-Gobain and Unilever.

A Unilever spokesperson said: “While we share different views on some elements of this report, we welcome external analysis of our progress and have entered into a productive dialogue with the NewClimate Institute to see how we can meaningfully evolve our approach.”

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