According to a study conducted by NewClimate Institute, 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%. Amazon, Ikea, Nestlé, and Unilever are among the companies named as having little substance behind their emission reduction claims.
The Germany-based NewClimate Institute and Belgian non-profit organizations Carbon Market Watch jointly published the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, in which companies were scored on criteria such as their climate targets, offsetting plan, reliability of those offsets, emission reduction progress, as well as their target-setting and corporate reporting transparency.
The report's compiler, Thomas Day, stated that the study finds efforts of the 25 companies would have little influence. He stated that they were dissatisfied and surprised by how much room these companies investigated can improve.
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 required to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
For a major chunk of their expected cutbacks, many 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. “Given their highly good perception, I had expected more from some corporations, such as Ikea, Unilever, and Nestlé,” Day added.
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.
As stated by Day, one of the key reasons most firms were downgraded was their excessive use of offsetting. Many offsetting efforts have been criticized for dubious value, and some have even been fraudulent. Opponents counter that carbon generated today heats the atmosphere now and will continue to do so for at least a century, whereas trees take decades to mature and store carbon absorbed from the air, showing that forestry is therefore a poor substitute for immediate emissions reductions.
Offsetting, according to Day, tends to disguise whether corporations are making meaningful progress in reducing their own emissions or are employing offsets to attain a fictitious net zero. “It's better not to offset - it's more transparent and helpful,” he explained. “Companies should not claim to be net zero by 2030 unless they have already reduced their emissions by 90%.”
He was particularly concerned about the apparent low quality of several of the corporations' offsetting efforts. “If they insist on offsetting, they should at least use carbon credits that are more reliable,” he said.