Study criticizes the climate targets of many large corporations

Status: 07.02.2022 1:38 p.m

Most corporations have realized that they can do something about global warming. However, a new study criticizes that the goals are often not ambitious enough to achieve climate neutrality.

“Climate neutral” – a promise that many countries and many companies make: “We will be climate neutral by day X.” But what does that mean exactly? The NewClimate Institute in Bonn asked itself this question. Every year, the Climate Institute examines the promises made by large companies in its “Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor”. In this year’s report, the is available, the institute criticizes that the climate targets of 25 of the world’s largest companies are not sufficient to label themselves “net zero” or “climate neutral”.

“It lacks real substance”

The companies that it has scrutinized include, for example, the large Internet groups Google, Amazon and Apple, but also companies such as Deutsche Telekom, BMW and Deutsche Post DHL.

“We set out to uncover as many good examples as possible, but frankly we were surprised and disappointed by the poor quality of company pledges,” says Thomas Day of the NewClimate Institute, lead author of the study. “As pressure mounts on companies to take action on climate change, their ambitious-sounding public promises all too often lack real substance, leading both consumers and regulators, who are critical to the strategic direction of companies, to chime in can lead astray.”

Praise for shipping company Maersk

According to the monitor, the Danish Maersk group performed best. The world’s largest container shipping company recently promised to be carbon neutral by 2040. The logistics company wants its ships to produce only half as many emissions in 2030 as in 2020. To this end, Maersk wants to renew the fleet and use low-emission fuels.

“Maersk and Deutsche Post are investing heavily in decarbonization technologies for transport and logistics. There is still ample potential for companies to adopt and scale up these emerging good practices,” the study reads. In addition to the NewClimate Institute, Carbon Market Watch is also involved in the monitor. Both emphasize that it is not always black or white when it comes to measures to combat climate change. The main problem is the lack of transparency. Based on the information available, it is not clear how exactly the companies will achieve their climate targets.

Criticism of the catalog of measures

Deutsche Telekom, for example, “sets itself ambitious goals, but provides insufficient information on emission reduction measures,” write the makers of the study about the group. “This lack of clarity may undermine Deutsche Telekom’s net-zero goals. The use of sold and leased products and purchased energy are the company’s two main sources of emissions, accounting for 38 percent and 14 percent of total emissions in 2020, respectively.”

On request, Deutsche Telekom writes: “As a group, we take our responsibility for society and the environment very seriously and have set ourselves ambitious climate targets based on scientific findings and assessments.” The company also refers to another study: “100 points can be achieved in the CDP Climate Disclosure Leadership Index.” With 99 points reached, the company has established itself as the industry leader in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The CDP index named by Telekom collects information on climate protection measures from companies on the basis of voluntary participation and standardized questionnaires.

“No clear indication of real ambition”

The energy company e.on, which is also included in the climate monitor of the NewClimate Institute, also refers to this survey. The study states: “E.on markets itself as a forward-thinking low-carbon energy company, but its goals and strategies lack substance. The company’s current practices do not give a clear indication of real ambitions to become a climate change leader.”

The company then accepts Position: “In our view, the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022 is not only incorrect in terms of methodology, but also misleading in its results. In addition, e.on was again included in the ‘A List’ by CDP for its climate reporting in 2021. This means that e. on among the top 200 companies worldwide to make the ‘A List’ in 2021.”

IKEA admits pent-up demand

IKEA, on the other hand, welcomes the monitor’s criticism of the furniture chain’s insufficient sustainability campaign. The company writes “The new report from the NewClimate Institute is a constructive addition to that. While IKEA is committed to climate action and has already achieved a lot, such as breaking the trend by reducing our absolute greenhouse gas emissions while increasing business growth, we still have a lot to do.” The company says it has “plans to address our remaining complex challenges, such as the carbon footprint of the materials used in the IKEA range.”

It should be noted that the majority of corporations are taking action to combat climate change and want to make a contribution. In a few years they will be measured even more against their goals – whether what they are doing is sufficient.

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