More than half of top corporate climate commitments undermined by lobbying practices

The report warns of a “major rift”, between public-facing pledges and obscured lobbying and influence activities

new study from InfluenceMap has found that more than half of corporates have introduced ambitious climate targets, but these do not align with the organisation’s current policy lobbying and influencing activities.

The data, based on analysis of 293 companies from the Forbes 2000 list, categorises brands into performance brackets based on individual policy engagement and industry associations. It found that 21.5% of companies are at “significant risk” and 36.5% of companies are at “moderate risk” of greenwashing.

In total, 58% of the world’s largest corporations have put forward climate commitments that are being undermined by their approaches to policy influencing.

The report warns of a “major rift”, between public-facing pledges and obscured lobbying and influence activities, with InfluenceMap warning that corporates could be greenwashing as a result.

“Governments are failing to progress climate policy at the speed needed, and corporate influence is a key reason why,” InfluenceMap’s director and study author Will Aitchison said:

“Unless companies match their climate commitments with ambitious support for government-led policy action, the Paris Agreement goals will be impossible to reach.”

By additionally, analysing the websites of corporates, InfluenceMap found that 93% of companies reference “net zero” or similar terms on their webpages, but very few are correlating these references with how they engage with governments on climate policy.

The report identifies the 10 companies most at risk of greenwashing due to their engagement practices. These include Chevron, Delta Air Lines, Glencore International, and ExxonMobil, who have set net-zero or similar targets but at the same time are advocating to weaken key climate policies through measures such as supporting the fossil fuel industry.

High Level guidance

At COP27, the High Level Expert Group outlined a new set of key recommendations to help these entities develop and deliver net-zero targets credibly, avoiding common greenwashing pitfalls.

The report aims to build on the Race to Zero and Science Based Targets initiative by providing corporates and investors with time-based frameworks to deliver net-zero, based on short, medium and long-term targets.

InfluenceMap claims that 58% of corporates would be classed as greenwashing under the UN’s guidance.

The UN report offers steps to avoid greenwashing and recommends that non-state actors should no longer claim to be net-zero if they continuously build or invest in new fossil fuel supply, support deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities that should be branded as “disqualifying”.

Additionally, firms should avoid purchasing cheap carbon credits instead of reducing emissions. The report does state that “high-quality” carbon credits can be used, but only to balance out remaining emissions once short and medium-term science-based targets have been met.

“These findings should be a wake-up call for businesses across the globe,” UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Expert Group on Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities’ chair Catherine McKenna said: “It’s clear that while companies are quick to showcase their climate commitments, too many of them are not backing that up with support for positive government policy on climate.

“Not only are many companies choosing to undermine their own climate commitments by lobbying against climate action, their net zero commitments are simply not credible. We need businesses to create a climate ambition loop where private sector leadership encourages and reinforces ambitious government action.”

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