We’ve known about climate change since the 1830s. However, it’s only been in the last few decades when the climate crisis has become a widely discussed topic. Since then, marches, environmental activists and influencers, and entire careers have risen, and now 3 in 4 Americans agree that human activity is changing our planet’s climate. The increase in conversation around climate change has meant that people are demanding for corporations to claim responsibility in their business practices and minimize the harm they inflict on our planet. The question is whether this demand has been successful. There is no doubt that companies are talking about climate change more in their interactions with consumers, and they are making public pledges on how they plan on changing. But how many of these promises are being fulfilled?
A team of researchers from the NewClimate Institute decided to find out. A study published in collaboration with the Climate Market Watch analyzed 25 corporations’ climate promises and how much integrity was shown behind them by looking at how much information was disclosed about emissions, where they came from, and whether that information could be easily understood by the public. Thomas Day, the lead author of the study, explained, “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.” Almost to no one’s surprise, the results were disappointing, to say the least.
Out of the 25 corporations analyzed, not a single one of them was found to have “high integrity.” One company had “reasonable integrity,” three had “moderate integrity,” ten were listed as “low integrity,” and eleven were found to have “very low integrity.” Companies such as Amazon, Google, IKEA, Volkswagen, and Walmart had low integrity in taking action towards their climate pledges. While firms such as CVS Health, Nestle, and Unilever had even worse integrity. The companies chosen for this study alone represent 5% of global emissions every year. Because of this, the actions they take in reducing their carbon footprint have an enormous impact on our planet.
Rather than the 100% reduction of emissions that the companies are promising in their pledges, the researchers found that current methods would result in about a 40% decrease. Whatsmore 24 out of 25 of these companies are trying to meet their goals by offsetting through various methods. Two-thirds of the firms are relying on tree plantings which can take years to fully grow, can quickly be reversed by something such as a forest fire (at which point the firm is no longer responsible for those trees), and we’ve already discussed how conservation of current forests is much more effective than new tree plantings.
It is disappointing to see these results. The majority of the corporations studied have low or very low integrity regarding their climate action, and not a single one was found to have high integrity. I know that there are small and even medium-sized businesses out there doing everything they can to make sure that their impact on our planet is minimal. But the companies with this much of an impact need to be doing more for the planet and the people they are profiting off of. I genuinely hope that this report, which will now be released annually, makes them reflect and take action on their relationship with our planet.
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