• November 16, 2023
  • Staff
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Though companies are keen to make net-zero commitments, their policy-influencing actions often contradict them, a new analysis has found.


Many big companies – including Glencore, ExxonMobil and Stellantis – are lobbying for policies that conflict with their own pledges to cut carbon emissions, a study published by non-profit think tank InfluenceMap on Thursday found.

The report assessed 293 companies from the Forbes 2000 list and found that nearly 60 per cent of those with net-zero emissions or similar climate targets are at risk of ‘net zero greenwash’ due to their lobbying.

InfluenceMap uses the United Nations’ High-Level Expert Group’s (HLEG) ‘Integrity Matters’ guidance on preventing greenwashing and the need to align lobbying with climate commitments. 

Lobbying includes companies’ direct policy-influencing activities and those of their industry associations.

A ‘wake-up call’ for businesses

Catherine McKenna, Chair of the UN’s HLEG on Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities, said the findings should be a “wake-up call” for businesses.

“Not only are many companies choosing to undermine their own climate commitments by lobbying against climate action, their net zero commitments are simply not credible,” she said.

InfluenceMap, founded in 2015 to encourage action to tackle the climate crisis, highlighted companies at the most significant risk of ‘net zero greenwash’. These firms, it said, have climate targets but advocate for weakening climate policies or expanding the fossil fuel industry.

Glencore, InfluenceMap said, opposed the introduction of an ongoing climate policy in the European Union and the proposed design of Australia’s Safeguard Mechanism Reform.

Glencore declined to comment.

ExxonMobil had opposed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed power plant rules and pushed for oil and gas expansion in the US, InfluenceMap said.

Stellantis, which wants to reach net zero by 2038, opposed the EU’s proposed 2035 100 per cent carbon dioxide emissions reduction target for new cars and vans. It also backed efforts to weaken US emissions standards for light-duty vehicles, according to InfluenceMap.

ExxonMobil and Stellantis did not respond to requests for comment.

Disconnect between communication and action

Through additional analysis of companies’ websites, researchers found a major disconnect between what corporations were communicating to the public about net zero and their influencing actions. 

Just over 90 per cent of companies referenced “net zero” or similar terms on their websites. But there was a very weak correlation between this communication and positive engagement on climate policy, InfluenceMap found.  

Faced with similar criticism in recent years, various companies have said they are only trying to balance climate goals with the needs of many stakeholders.

The UN, which begins its COP28 climate summit later this month, has said companies must disclose their lobbying and policy engagements and align them with their climate plans.

“Governments are failing to progress climate policy at the speed needed, and corporate influence is a key reason why,” said Will Aitchison, the study’s lead author.

“Unless companies match their climate commitments with ambitious support for government-led policy action, the Paris Agreement goals will be impossible to reach.”

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