Unilever, Ikea and Nestle are among the few industry heavy-hitters using their corporate clout to push for the ambitious policies needed to stop disastrous climate change, according to industry analysis published yesterday.
While large firms are increasingly eager to tout their environmental credentials, this has led to concerns that some companies are “greenwashing” their images while failing to fundamentally change their behaviour.
The InfluenceMap “A-List” assessed hundreds of companies to see how many were lobbying for action in line with global warming limits set out by the Paris climate deal.
Not many, according to the London-based think tank, which listed 15 companies it said demonstrate sufficient “support for ambitious climate policy, strategic levels of engagement with climate policy, and leadership in its sector”.
These also included utility firms like Italy’s Enel, Spain’s Iberdrola and France’s EDF, as well as the clothing firm H&M and, perhaps least surprisingly, the electric carmaker Tesla.
“As the scientific consensus has sharpened on what next steps are needed to deal with the climate crisis, so too has the ambition from a core group of corporate leaders,” said InfluenceMap Programme Manager Kendra Haven.
“But it’s also a reminder that large parts of the corporate world appear to remain ambivalent or actively opposed to bold climate action.”
A crunch UN climate meeting next month will look to accelerate global action to meet the Paris Agreement goals of capping global warming at “well below” 2C from preindustrial levels, preferably under 1.5C.
InfluenceMap said it looked at thousands of pieces of evidence as part of its assessment and tried to reflect policy outcomes that companies seek in their lobbying.
But it disqualified even pro-climate companies that maintain memberships to “obstructive lobby groups”, said Haven.
This meant that firms like Microsoft and Siemens AG did not make the cut, because they are associated with either the National Association of Manufacturers or the US Chamber of Commerce.
The resulting list is heavily dominated by European firms, 12 out of the 15.
Switzerland’s Nestle, which owns KitKat and Nespresso, pledged in March to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030.
The conglomerate, which has been blasted by environmental groups over things like plastic packaging pollution and deforestation, added it would plant 20mn trees each year over the next decade to help boost reforestation.
British consumer giant Unilever, which has faced similar criticisms, has vowed to halve its use of plastic by 2025, eliminate fossil fuels in its cleaning products by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2039.
Meanwhile, Swedish furniture firm Ikea has pledged to reduce absolute emissions 15% from 2016 levels by 2030.
In April, the independent Ikea Foundation pledged to donate 1bn euros ($1.2bn) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over five years.
Eliot Whittington, of the Corporate Leaders Groups at Cambridge Institute for Sustainability leadership, said it was important to recognise businesses taking an active climate role.
“Increasingly businesses understand that they need to deliver climate action and sustainability through the whole of their business activities including their lobbying and public affairs impact,” he said.
In September, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority regulator warned businesses that made false green claims could face sanctions.
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