Greenwashing is alive and well: the climate commitments of major corporations lack overall credibility and transparency, according to a report published Monday that examines the stated ambitions of 24 multinationals from all sectors.
This study by the NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch think tanks assesses the strategies of these giants in commerce, food, transportation, or various industries that alone accounted for some 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. What they have in common is that they highlight their commitments to the climate.
But the reality is often far from matching the promises, concludes the report, which notes a general lack of progress since a previous edition a year ago.
Most corporations’ climate strategies are mired in ambiguous commitments, offset plans that lack credibility and exclusions in the scope of emissions,” the report points out.
For example, American Airlines has only a distant promise of carbon neutrality for 2050, with no target for 2030, and makes everything depend on “sustainable” fuels that are still very uncertain.
However, “replicable good practices can be identified in a minority”.
Of the 24 companies surveyed, only the climate strategy of Danish shipping giant Maersk – which is investing in alternative fuels and new ships – has integrity that is considered “reasonable”. No company achieves a “high” level of integrity.
Another 15 of the companies surveyed are rated as having “weak” or “very weak” integrity.
The poor performers identified are American Airlines, French supermarket Carrefour, Brazilian meat giant JBS and Korea’s Samsung.
These findings are based on the companies’ own emissions data and, among other things, their use of “offsets.”
The latter is widely used, with 23 out of 24 companies using it to achieve their climate objectives. It consists of financing, for example, the planting of millions of trees or renewable energy projects, which will then “offset” or absorb CO2.
The use of these mechanisms, which are poorly verified or not at all, and which often replace the reduction of emissions, is severely criticized by the UN experts. The report also points out the limits, such as the use of CO2 absorption capacities by land and forests that exceed their real capacities.
“In this critical decade for climate action, current corporate plans do not reflect the urgency needed to reduce emissions,” laments Thomas Day of the NewClimate Institute, one of the authors.