89% of industry engagement in biodiversity are greenwashing: Report
Letters by industrial companies have even been sent to US President Joe Biden, deliberately and publicly opposing climate policies protecting biodiversity.
A new research report by climate think tank InfluenceMap found that 89% of involvement by top industry associations in Europe and the US is architectured to block and delay policies aimed at tackling the biodiversity crisis as a result of the climate change emergency. The remaining 5% was positive while the other 6% was mixed or neutral.
The report focused on associations related to five sectors: agriculture, oil and gas, fisheries, mining and forestry, and paper, all of which have devastating impacts on biodiversity loss. The EU and US were the main target points of this study due to the high availability of data in these two regions.
For analysis, the report examined 750 pieces of evidence such as press releases, blogs, reports, speeches, and social media accounts of 12 industry associations, which included the US Chamber of Commerce, Copa-Cogeca, the American Petroleum Institute, European farmers’ interest group, and BusinessEurope.
Among members of the aforementioned associations are companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, ExxonMobil, Toyota, and Microsoft - many of which publicly vowed to commit to protecting biodiversity, but the views of the individual companies in relation to the policies were not examined.
An InfluenceMap report released earlier this year exposed leading oil and gas companies that claimed to have spent tens of millions publicizing environmental work but a mere 12% of their capital expenditure actually went toward low-carbon development.
Lobbying against efforts to regulate PFAS, the widespread but largely toxic “forever chemicals” that are often used in insecticides in the US, have been attempted by the US Chamber of Commerce.
Chuck Chaitovitz, VP for environmental affairs and sustainability at the US Chamber of Commerce, said, “The business community supports accelerating cleanup of this broad group of chemistries, based on the best science and risk. However, all PFAS are not the same. Many have societally valuable applications, from cellphones, medical devices, solar panels to public safety and national security uses. The chamber has been engaged in discussions about how best to address PFAS while ensuring there aren’t unintended consequences and costs.”
In another attempt, Copa-Cogeca, an agricultural union in the EU representing farming groups, opposed targets of reducing pesticides in the “farm to fork” strategy while also rejecting the EU’s ban on certain neonicotinoid pesticides.
A Copa-Cogeca spokesperson acknowledged the risk of neonicotinoids but believed still in their importance for maintaining the production of sugar beet and oilseeds in Europe. “We have volunteered to the European Commission for risk-reduction measures to reduce the exposure of pollinators but this has not been taken onboard.”
Just last year, an open letter by the president of BusinessEurope was published to lobby against the enforcement of single-use plastics directive guidelines.
According to a report released in September, the EU has left 99% of continental waters unprotected from bottom trawling, industrial-scale extraction, and other “high-impact activities” with only 1% set up as “true” marine protected areas (MPAs) and only 10.8% of the surface of Europe’s seas had been designated as MPAs in 2017.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) has previously attempted to persuade lessening restrictions on oil and gas production on federal land since 2017. This year, a letter was sent to US president Joe Biden rekindling this by citing concerns about energy security due to the war in Ukraine.
Even under the previous Trump administration, revoking environmental policies was unfortunately successful by weakening the Endangered Species Act in the US and the EU’s birds and habitats directive.
Read more: Wildlife population drops 69% in under 50 years: Report
API was discovered by the report to be the most active in lobbying against the protection of species critical to humanity such as bees and polar bears. “Although industry associations, especially in the US, appear reluctant to discuss the biodiversity crisis, they are clearly engaged on a wide range of policies with significant impacts on biodiversity loss,” researchers wrote.
Although this is its first analysis centering on biodiversity loss, InfluenceMap has studied companies’ positions on the climate crisis before. But this specific report has been released in light of the upcoming Cop15 biodiversity conference in Montreal due to take place in December through which UN targets for the next 10 years will be set forth. In the past 10, not a single target has been met.
Rebecca Vaughan, InfluenceMap’s program manager and report author, stated, “Scientists are warning that biodiversity loss is occurring globally at an unprecedented rate, yet powerful industry associations are overwhelmingly pushing back against policies designed to slow or reverse this trend.”
“This research sheds new light on an area of lobbying that has largely been able to slip under the radar and should act as a wake-up call to policymakers ahead of the UN’s upcoming biodiversity conference," she said, adding, “While it may not be surprising that some of these industry associations are pushing back on environmental protections, the sheer scale and range of lobbying on biodiversity-relevant policy was surprising."
"This report also raises the question as to whether these industry associations are fairly representing the policy positions of their corporate members, many of which have made public commitments on biodiversity protection.”
The Copa-Cogeca spokesperson expressed that they "never opposed the underlining objective of increased sustainability and together with our members we very much work on best ways to reconcile increased sustainability and food production. We believe this is key.”
Megan Bloomgren, API’s senior vice-president of communications, commented, “API member companies continue to make investments towards innovation, research and best practices to further reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions and tackle the climate challenge.”