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BERLIN: Some of the world’s largest companies will only achieve 40 percent of their ‘net-zero’ or ‘carbon neutral’ emissions goals according to a new study based on publicly available data.

The NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch evaluated 25 companies with US$3.18 trillion in combined revenue to determine the transparency and integrity of their climate pledges.

In 2019 their total self-reported GHG footprint, including Scope 3 emissions, was 2.7 GtCO2e – equivalent to 5.0 percent of the global total. However none are determined to have “high integrity” in their net-zero claims and only Maersk’s pledge is considered to have “reasonable integrity”.

While Apple, Sony and the Vodafone goals are rated as moderately truthful, the emission targets of Amazon, Deutsche Telekom, Enel, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hitachi, IKEA, Vale, Volkswagen and Walmart have “low integrity”, says the study.

Below them in the “very low integrity” group sit Accenture, BMW Group, Carrefour, CVS Health, Deutsche Post DHL, E.ON SE, JBS, Nestlé, Novartis, Saint-Gobain and Unilever.

“Misleading advertisements by companies have real impacts on consumers and policymakers. We’re fooled into believing that these companies are taking sufficient action, when the reality is far from it,” explained Gilles Dufrasne from Carbon Market Watch. “Without more regulation, this will continue. We need governments and regulatory bodies to step up and put an end to this greenwashing trend.”

The analysis focused on companies that have committed to high-profile climate change mitigation via one of the main corporate climate action networks and initiatives such as Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) or the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Although Maersk positions itself as a leading actor in decarbonising maritime shipping emissions - while producing 53.2 million tons of CO2e in 2020 - the report notes the company does not yet provide a clear trajectory to decarbonise emissions from electricity demand and supply chains; nor does it have clear plans to reduce Scope 2 and 3 emissions - accounting for 36 percent of its climate footprint in 2020.

The “very low integrity” Deutsche Post DHL says it wants to be a net-zero emission company by 2050 and is pioneering efforts in the replacement of internal combustion engines. However according to the report its target is unclear – both in terms of emissions covered and whether the company aims for net-zero or real zero emissions by 2050: “The company uses the terms net-zero, zero emissions and zero-emissions logistics interchangeably and inconsistently in its German and English communications.” [It] could substantially improve the clarity on its 2050 target by outlining whether the target is ‘net zero’ or ‘real zero’ and – in case of the former – set an accompanying deep emission reduction target.”

Lead author Thomas Day of NewClimate Institute added: “We set out to uncover as many replicable good practices as possible, but we were frankly surprised and disappointed at the overall integrity of the companies’ claims. As pressure on companies to act on climate change rises, their ambitious-sounding headline claims all too often lack real substance, which can mislead both consumers and the regulators that are core to guiding their strategic direction.

"Even companies that are doing relatively well exaggerate their actions.”

The non-profit NewClimate Institute was founded in 2014 to generate ideas on climate change mitigation through research, policy design and knowledge sharing.
 
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