Top corporations fall short in fighting climate change
Some of the world's most well-known companies are not doing nearly enough to back up their promises to eliminate their carbon footprints in the decades ahead.
Some of the world's largest corporations are failing to live up to claims that they will achieve net-zero emissions targets, reducing carbon emissions by only 40% rather than the projected 100%, according to a new analysis.
Amazon, IKEA, Nestlé, and Unilever are among the firms cited as having little substance behind their assertions that they will dramatically reduce emissions.
The report's compiler, Thomas Day of NewClimate Institute, stated that the combined efforts of the 25 companies analyzed would have little influence. "It's unclear whether these cuts go beyond business as usual," he said. "We were both dissatisfied and surprised by the amount of opportunity for improvement [among the companies surveyed]." Companies must be far more open about their objectives."
He went on to say that short-term goals were of special relevance. According to the report, the corporations polled would only lower their emissions by approximately 23% on average by 2030, falling far short of the number of nearly halving emissions in the next decade that scientists estimate is required to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. "In the climate catastrophe, the most crucial thing is short-term action," he stated.
For a major chunk of their expected cutbacks, many companies are relying on carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting is the contentious practice of compensating for greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere by paying for projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions - mainly by conserving forests or planting new trees.
Many of the companies investigated have made a big deal about their commitment to environmental sustainability. “Some companies I had expected more from, given their very positive perception, such as IKEA, Unilever, and Nestlé,” said Day.
Companies were scored on criteria such as their targets, how much offsetting they planned to use and the reliability of those offsets, progress on reducing their emissions, and how transparent they were in their target-setting and corporate reporting, according to the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor by NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch.
According to these benchmarks, none of the 25 companies evaluated met a high standard. Amazon and IKEA were among the corporations with "poor integrity," while E.ON and Nestlé were among the 11 companies with "extremely low integrity" in the survey.
Offsetting is becoming more popular among corporations looking to improve their environmental credentials, and a new standards organization is aiming to make it much more so.
What did they say?
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We set these ambitious targets because we know that climate change is a serious problem, and action is needed now more than ever. Amazon is on a path to powering our operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of our original target.”
An E.ON spokesperson said: “In our view, [the report] is not only methodologically incorrect, but its results are misleading. E.ON’s carbon footprint is based on the principles of the globally applicable greenhouse gas accounting standard. E.ON was again included in the A List by CDP [the Carbon Disclosure Project] for its climate reporting in 2021.”
A spokesperson for IKEA said: “While IKEA has achieved much already, such as breaking the link between decreasing our absolute emissions while increasing business growth, we have plans in place to address our remaining complex challenges, such as the climate footprint of the materials used in the IKEA range.”
Benjamin Ware, the global head of climate delivery and sustainable sourcing at Nestlé, said: “We welcome scrutiny of our actions and commitments on climate change. However, the report lacks an understanding of our approach and contains significant inaccuracies. [Our] climate roadmap has been validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative [a corporate sustainability body]. The work that went into it is rigorous and extensive.”
A spokesperson for Unilever said: “While we share different perspectives on some elements of this report, we welcome external analysis of our progress and have begun a productive dialogue with the NewClimate Institute to see how we can meaningfully evolve our approach.”