Is it really a surprise that companies like Nestle and Amazon have insufficient and ambiguous net-zero plans?

This week’s news from green-ish tech, unsustainability, ethics-free ‘innovators’ and the spineless PR companies that represent them.

Today, we look at the flawed stats behind the biggest companies’ net-zero claims, and the hypocrisy of the PR companies that talk the green talk, but still represent the worst polluters and greenwashers. Also, Q4 financials show energy companies and their bosses are making a killing while Brits worry how they’ll pay their bills now Ofgem has increased caps; and lastly, the surprising, depressing, and marginally impressive new data that shows Britain is the only top-20 emitter set to meet its Paris Climate Accord goals.

 

Biggest companies’ net-zero targets will only reach 40% carbon reduction, despite claims

As reported across many sites and here in the Guardian, Thomas Day from the NewClimate Institute has compiled a damning report that illustrates the extent of the greenwashing in major companies’ net-zero plans.

When taken in aggregate, the emissions targets of 25 global companies like Nestle, Amazon, Ikea and Unilever would only result in carbon reductions of 40% rather than the 100% as claimed. The author of the report said that “it is not clear these reductions take us beyond business as usual”.

The report showed that the companies surveyed would only cut their emissions by about 23% on average by 2030, falling far short of the figure of nearly halving in the next decade. This 2030 target is vital for avoiding a rise in temperature above 1.5 degrees C, which would all but ensure disastrous impacts across many environments, with parts of the equator becoming unliveable and the global South facing a myriad of climate-related problems such as heatwaves and droughts.

These policy failures are foolish and short-sighted. The worst impacts of the climate emergency that these businesses are helping to create may well be beyond the life span of their c-suite and investors; however, their children will be deeply affected.

At this point, I don’t know why we expect anything else, considering Nestle’s role in draining the fresh-water resources of drought-ridden California, just to sell it in un-recyclable bottles. Or indeed the 1970’s scandal in which they convinced mothers throughout the Third World that expensive, vitamin-deficient formula milk was desirable, when breast milk was healthier (and free) – helping lead to the death of millions.

Yet behind every ethics-free innovator is a spineless PR company, and Nestle has some of the biggest names in their roster – including Edelman, Ketchum, a Weber Shandwick/Golin team, MSL and Ogilvy.

You’d think profiting from fresh water during California’s unrelenting, record-breaking drought is against the ideas expressed in Ogilvy’s blog Our Actions Matter: The Role for Brands After COP26. Our favourite line was: “The emphasis was, rightly, focused on… reducing emissions to keep alive the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°c” – it seems their biggest client doesn’t quite agree.

Who said there’s no irony in marketing?

 

Energy giants make chilling profits despite cost of energy crisis

As reported almost everywhere, and here in Yahoo! News, energy giants BP and Shell are set to make a £7bn profit in Q4 of 2021. This information was timed perfectly with the news on Thursday that energy regulator Ofgem announced a 54% increase in the UK energy price cap due to soaring oil and gas prices – which will effect 22 million people.

Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase from £1,277 to £1,971 per year on average, while households on prepaid meters will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.

Shell’s 63-year-old boss Ben van Beurden netted £5.2mn in 2020, and nearly £70mn since he took charge in 2014, while BP’s boss, Bernard Looney, described the company as a “cash machine” last November – and ‘earned’ himself £1.7mn in 2020.

Sometimes, the policy writes itself, and we can only hope that the public disclosure of their greed overlapping perfectly with Ofgem’s removal of energy caps results in a windfall tax to ensure those who are profiting help those who will be shivering next winter.

The EAS reported that in 2017, there were 2.53 million people in fuel poverty, which is approximately 10.9% of all English households, and according to ONS figures reported in AgeUK – this resulted in over 46,000 excess winter deaths among people aged 65+ year olds.

These disgraceful figures are sure to increase dramatically next winter unless something is done – and just so we are clear, slowing, reducing or removing net-zero targets and reductions in fossil fuel usage is absolutely not the answer.

 

Data shows UK is the only large emitter on track to meet Paris Climate Accord agreements

For the good news this week, data reported in Business Green, from Investment management firm Invesco, shows that Britain is the only top 20 largest emitter to meet its share of the goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, as agreed in the Paris Climate Accord in 2015.

The data, released today, was originally published in the first edition of its new Economic Transition Monitor, which aims to monitor the progress of the 20 largest emitters on their path to net zero emissions. To analyse the likely success of meeting net-zero targets, Invesco looked at recent trends in emissions, emissions per capita, and the CO2 intensity of economic activity.

Of course, the downside to this is that the 19 other economies are off-track – and ultimately that matters far more than Britain’s reluctant progress on the matter.