Spot the greenwashing

There are so many types it’s hard to say.

I understand that. We have been fed so many unverified claims (for example, on airline carbon offsets) and so much misinformation (oil companies, I’m looking at you) that it would be easy to dismiss them all.

Here’s why it would be bad, and what you should know about these big promises. This is important because global business leaders will gather on Sunday in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum. Most likely we will hear more climate promises.

First, let’s talk about greenwashing – a blanket term to describe false or unsubstantiated claims in the company’s environmental records. This is a big problem. The New Climate Institute, a research institute based in Germany, recently looked at the climate plans of 25 large multinational companies and Most of them gave very low marks. In fact, reducing emissions. The group’s report says it is “more difficult than ever” to distinguish between genuine climate leadership and dubious claims.

But, it is important to keep in mind that some companies are trying to do the right thing. The CDP, a non-profit group focused on corporate transparency, has identified more than 250 companies that it says Leads to a greener future.. You can think of these businesses as trailblazers, and, if we fail to recognize their efforts, they will be less motivated to work harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The ground rules for corporate commitments are still being written. And regulators are focusing on that. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, will meet on Wednesday Consider the new rules This will standardize the way businesses display information about investments that claim to be green, sustainable or low-carbon.

In the meantime, here are some key pointers in moving forward with climate change. The next time you read a corporate announcement, keep it in mind.

First things first: What do companies mean by net zero?

Becoming carbon neutral involves two things: companies need to de-carbonate their businesses by reducing their emissions, and then compensating for unavoidable emissions through carbon offset programs such as deforestation and carbon removal technologies.

But, for now, expulsion compensation is often a gamble. Forests that form the basis of carbon offset are complex because they can burn forests, release their stored carbon into the air and defeat the idea of ​​offset. In addition, most of the existing carbon removal technologies in the atmosphere are prohibitively expensive and are not in commercial use.

These uncertainties mean that carbon offsets should be left behind in corporate plans, according to standards set by Science-Based Targets, a nonprofit group that sets corporate goals. Most companies will only be able to rely on these tools to meet a maximum of 10% of their emissions.

Some companies, such as in the fossil fuel sector, will need to radically change their business models. There is no solution.

What are companies doing by 2050?

The target date for most pledges is 2050. This is because of the scientific consensus that if the world can stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by then, we should be able to keep the temperature up to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond this level, the risks of global warming – including deteriorating floods, droughts, deforestation and deforestation – are increasing exponentially.

But that is a long way off. Experts say that for any credible promise, there should be short- and medium-term targets for every five or ten years. Pratima Deogi, who heads the CDP North America’s division of capital markets, said the interim targets are effective for a number of reasons, not just performance measurements.

“In some cases, it’s about understanding why some of the strategies you’re using are working or not,” he said.

Setting goals and working transparently is also key to reviewing progress for shareholders and civil society.

What do companies include in their goals?

The bulk of the company’s business emissions are likely to be outside the company. For example, extracting the raw materials needed to make a product. Or, home delivery.

Take JBS, the world’s largest meat packer. Emissions from their offices and slaughterhouses account for only 3% of their total emissions. The rest are connected to the thousands of farms that provide them with cattle. Recent Analysis of the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, A research organization based in Minnesota.

According to Divgi, supply chain emissions are, on average, 11 times higher than the company’s operational emissions. Any pure zero promise that does not include this exclusion cannot be trusted.

What are companies doing when we are not watching?

OK, so the company’s issue balance sheet is checked out. Is that enough? Not required. Its impact on our planet’s climate could extend beyond its business into the complex realm of politics.

It is not uncommon for companies making bold announcements to lobby against climate action at the same time. It is also considered a form of greenwashing.

Last year, a watchdog group called Accountable.US found that there were also large corporations that had expressed deep concern over climate change. Supporting business groups Fighting Climate Legislation

A warm summer ahead: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been forecasting higher temperatures and less rain in most parts of the United States since August.

Snow mobiles in the mud: Winter sports such as skiing, hiking and dog sledding are turning into Norwegian Svalbard, which is warming faster than the rest of the Arctic.

Bog Squad: Dozens of scientists, academics and writers have spent their lives thinking about the Petlands. We asked them why they are so obsessed.

A shock to Tesla: The S&P 500 ESG Index, which measures the market performance of companies that meet sustainability standards, dropped the carmaker.