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Cheating on climate protection

A new study shows that the climate pledges of 25 of the world's largest companies actually only lead to a reduction of their emissions by an average of 40%, not 100%, as their statements of "net zero" and "carbon neutrality" suggest.

Not as sustainable as the Swedes always like to claim: IKEA (Image: Pixabay)Not as sustainable as the Swedes always like to claim: IKEA (Image: Pixabay)

These are the results of the 'Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor', conducted by the NewClimate Institute in cooperation with Carbon Market Watch. In it, a total of 25 large companies from different sectors and regions were assessed. As it turns out, their statements on climate protection are often far off the mark. Only one company's net zero pledge was rated with "reasonable integrity", three with "moderate", ten with "low" and the remaining 12 with "very low" integrity.

“We set out to uncover as many replicable good practices as possible, but we were frankly surprised and disappointed at the overall integrity of the companies’ claims” said NewClimate Institute's Thomas Day, lead author of the study. “As pressure on companies to act on climate change rises, their ambitious-sounding headline claims all too often lack real substance, which can mislead both consumers and the regulators that are core to guiding their strategic direction. Even companies that are doing relatively well exaggerate their actions.”

The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor will be published annually in the future (Image: NewClimate Institute)

The company with reasonable - if not high - integrity is the Danish logistics and transport company Maersk, which among other things operates the largest container shipping company in the world. The company is also active in the offshore wind sector. The technology and communications groups Apple, Sony and Vodafone then follow in the ranking with moderate integrity.

The majority of companies that make public and promotional commitments to net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality have not formulated particularly ambitious targets. Moreover, many of the statements are embellished by withheld information and accounting tricks.

Overall, the analysis shows that the pledges made by Amazon, Deutsche Telekom, Enel, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hitachi, IKEA, Vale, Volkswagen and Walmart should be given low integrity. Accenture, BMW, Carrefour, CVS Health, Deutsche Post DHL, E.ON, JBS, Nestlé, Novartis, Saint-Gobain and Unilever fare even worse in the ranking, with only a very low level of integrity attributed to their commitments.

Maersk lands at number 1 in the ranking (Image: Pixabay)

The ramifications of these outlandish claims are significant. “Greenwashing is not a victimless crime as consumers and decision-makers are fooled into thinking that companies are doing all they can to address their climate impact,” observes Carbon Market Watch’s Gilles Dufrasne. “The world’s biggest companies have a huge responsibility to rise up to the challenge we’re facing. Today, they are failing to do so, and it is time that governments step in to regulate corporate claims and put an end to misleading advertisement.”

“Companies must face the reality of a changing planet. What seemed acceptable a decade ago is no longer enough,” said Dufrasne. “Setting vague targets will get us nowhere without real action, and can be worse than doing nothing if it misleads the public. Countries have shown that we need a fresh start when adopting the Paris Agreement, and companies need to reflect this in their own actions.”

Katrin Radtke
company, cheat, clmate protection, carbon neutrality, emissions, net zero, Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, study, NewClimate Insttute, Carbon Market Watch

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