Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Greenwashing PR


The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, released by the NewClimate Institute for Climate Policy and Global Sustainability and Carbon Market Watch, examines the climate commitments of two dozen large global companies, from Apple to Walmart to Mercedes-Benz to Samsung. The detailed study finds that the climate pledges of some of the world's largest companies are often highly misleading, lack transparency, and fall well short of what's necessary to avert catastrophic warming, casting further doubt on the viability of global emission-reduction plans.

The report, which offers an in-depth examination of the 24 companies' climate pledges, points specifically to "offsetting" as a tactic companies use to overstate the scope of their climate action. Offsetting involves making up for carbon emissions by funding carbon pollution cuts elsewhere. According to the new study, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and other prominent corporations are guilty of using offsetting to make it appear as though they're on track to meet their 2030 emission-reduction commitments.

Sabine Frank, the executive director of Carbon Market Watch, told the Wall Street Journal that "at a time when corporations need to come clean about their climate impact and shrink their carbon footprint, many are exploiting vague and misleading 'net zero' pledges to greenwash their brand while continuing with business as usual."

Companies often tout their net-zero-emissions commitments and support for the Paris climate accord as proof that they're helping lead the way to a more sustainable future, a closer look shows that their plans are "wholly insufficient and mired by ambiguity," the new study argues, spotlighting the misleading tactics that businesses deploy to make their pledges appear more ambitious than they are.

The analysis explains, "Overall, we find the climate strategies of 15 of the 24 companies to be of low or very low integrity. We found that most of the companies’ strategies do not represent examples of good practice climate leadership. Companies' climate change commitments do not add up to what their pledges might suggest."

It states, "Their combined emission-reduction commitments are wholly insufficient to align with 1.5°C-compatible decarbonization trajectories; targets and potential offsetting plans remain ambiguous; and the exclusion of emission scopes severely undermines the targets of several companies."

 The new research concludes that companies' stated emission-reduction targets for 2030 can't be trusted because they "address only a limited scope of emission sources, such as only direct emissions (scope 1) or emissions from procured energy (scope 2), and only selected other indirect emission categories (scope 3)," even though the last category accounts for more than 90% of the greenhouse gas pollution for most of the examined corporations. For the 22 companies with targets for 2030, we find that these targets translate to a median absolute emission-reduction commitment of just 15% of the full value chain emissions between 2019 and 2030." 

One of the report's authors, Thomas Day of the NewClimate Institute, said that "in this critical decade for climate action, companies' current plans do not reflect the necessary urgency for emission reductions."

NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch points out:

"Half of the companies we assessed—including Apple, Deutsche Post DHL, Google, and Microsoft—make carbon neutrality claims today, but these claims only cover 3% of those companies' emissions on average. The vast majority of emission sources are excluded from these claims, but this critical information is not clear in the marketing materials displayed to consumers. At least three-quarters of the companies we assessed plan to heavily rely on offsetting through forestry and land-use-related projects in the future. This is problematic for two key reasons: the non-permanence of biogenic carbon storage makes such projects fundamentally unsuitable for offsetting emissions; and the scale of carbon credit demand implied by these companies’ plans would require the resources of 2-4 planet Earths, if followed by others."

Lindsay Otis, a policy expert at Carbon Market Watch, said that "by making such outlandish carbon neutrality claims, these corporations are not only misleading consumers and investors, but they are also exposing themselves to increasing legal and reputational liability."

The report's conclusion is that, based on the growing evidence of deceptive corporate practices, regulators can't "rely on existing voluntary initiatives to ensure compliance with the necessary standards for credible and transparent corporate climate action."

"Companies' plans for the period up to 2030 fall far short of the efforts needed in this crucial decade for climate action to stand a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C." 

Study Shows How Corporations Are Deceiving the Public to 'Greenwash Their Brand' (commondreams.org)

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