Meet the climate hypocrites of big business

Boeing, BMW, and EDF among 45 major companies whose green claims and pro-fossil fuel lobby group links don’t add up

London's Square Mile (Flickr/ Michael Garnett)

London’s Square Mile (Flickr/ Michael Garnett)

By Alex Pashley

Almost half of the world’s 100 largest industrial companies are obstructing climate change legislation, non-profit Influence Map revealed on Wednesday.

Forty-five counter environmental laws, chiefly through trade associations, according to a unique methodology developed with the US Union of Concerned Scientists.

In the rankings of Fortune 2000 largest 100 firms, which excluded state-owned enterprises and financial companies, energy-guzzling firms perform poorly.

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell, pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and Japanese carmaker Toyota scored Ds.

Koch Industries and utility firm Duke Energy came bottom, with F grades. Microsoft scraped a pass with a C-, with Unilever and Google topping the class on less-than-exceptional Bs.

Some companies volunteer data on their carbon footprint to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

But that alone doesn’t define their environmental impact. Firms are increasingly using trade groups to lobby against regulations, said Gretchen Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change,” she said.

Report: Investors urge businesses to quit climate-unfriendly EU lobby groups

For example, consumer product company Procter & Gamble is a member of Business Europe, despite its stated support for action on climate change.

Business Europe and other lobby groups like the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers have sought to water down EU legislation on carbon emissions, according to the Policy Studies Institute.

Unilever left last year, while BP and Shell are parting ways with the Washington-based American Legislative Exchange Council.

95 out of 100 corporations were members of trade associations, InfluenceMap said.

“There is a lack of detailed analysis available in this area and sadly great companies sometimes do bad things by lobbying against government action to avoid dangerous climate change,” said Paul Dickinson, executive chairman of the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Dylan Tanner, executive director of Influence Map, said it gave a fuller picture of companies’ green credentials and was helpful for investors and consumers.

The UK-based NGO simply aggregates the data and advocates no position, he told RTCC. Among its rating, it gives a level of “engagement intensity”, which highlights if companies have backed governments acting on climate.

Grading companies would increase scrutiny and could spur them to compete to improve their score, boosting climate action.

“Below the top 100 or 200, most companies tend to ride on the coattails of bigger companies or trade associations to do their influencing,” he added.

The rankings are also a proxy for a company’s readiness for a transition to a low carbon energy system.

Emissions will have to fall to net zero in the second half of the century, according to scientists, signalling the transition of a fossil fuel-dependent energy system to one based on clean energy.

“We have started a process, not just a report that will sit on a shelf and age,” Tanner said.

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