Carbon neutrality: big companies exaggerate their results, study shows

In the era of the climate crisis and growing consumer demand for a genuine commitment from brands to the climate, large companies have no choice but to commit to an environmentally responsible approach. Reducing their CO2 emissions, sourcing renewable energy, offsetting their environmental impact by planting trees… These are just some of the missions that large multinationals communicate, sometimes with clear, precise and outdated objectives … But the objectives are not always respected and the measures taken are not always useful.

Because according to a study by the New Climate Institute in collaboration with Carbon Market Watch [1]performed on 25 organizations and passed on by the BBC, most of them fail to meet their own climate targets. Worse, they tend to exaggerate or distort their progress. Did you say “wash green”?

What about CO2 emissions?

New Climate Institute based its research on a methodology that focuses on corporate greenhouse gas emissions through four areas of action:

  • the monitoring and communication of its emissions
  • the definition of emission reduction targets
  • reduce own emissions
  • responsibility for the remaining emissions through contributions or climate compensation.

In its report, the institute points to the lack of transparency of certain companies that have a misleading “net zero” target (for zero CO2 emissions). “Net-zero targets aim to reduce the total emissions of analyzed companies by up to 40%, not by 100% as the term ‘net-zero’ suggests”we can read in the report. “All 25 companies evaluated […] commit to achieving some form of zero-emissions, net-zero-emissions or carbon neutrality. But only 3 of the 25 companies – Maersk, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom – are clearly committed to a deep decarbonisation of more than 90% of all their value chain emissions by their respective target years. †

others? Some only commit to reducing their emissions by less than 15%, often excluding some of their emissions from the calculation. Others are only aiming for a 40% target or simply taking no action to reduce their environmental impact. Among the pinned companies we find the giants of the web such as Google and Amazon, but also the juggernaut Apple, the Swedish Ikea, the Swiss multinational Nestle and the French Carrefour or Saint-Gobain.

“The 2030 targets fall far short of the ambition needed to be in line with the internationally agreed goals of the Paris Agreement and to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change. †

New climate institute

This diagram, in English, provides a visual summary of companies’ commitment versus what they actually entered and what was left out:

New climate institute

The role of business in climate change

With this study, the New Climate Institute also wants to remind you that companies are acting in good faith. For example, the research institute encourages leaders to discuss their best practices to make the climate crisis current.

“Combating climate change depends on innovation; companies have and will continue to play a central role in finding and scaling up solutions for deep decarbonisation. These efforts urgently need to be accelerated. †

New climate institute

While the New Climate Institute says that “companies should be subject to intense scrutiny to confirm whether their promises and claims are credible, and held accountable if they are not,” organizations named in the report have told BBC news that they disagreed with some of the methods used. They added that they are determined to take action to curb climate change.

[1] Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022, published Feb. 7 by The New Climate Institute, in partnership with Carbon Market Watch

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