Companies Must Find the Courage to Back Up Statements on Climate Action
The world’s largest companies are rapidly raising the bar on their commitments to tackle climate change. Dozens recently put net-zero goals in place to eliminate carbon from their operations and often their entire value chains as well. Hundreds have committed to using only renewable energy. More than 1,600 say they will cut greenhouse gas emissions at the pace scientists tell us is needed to avoid the worst climate outcomes (that is, they’re pledging a science-based target). And banks, long the laggards on climate action, are funneling trillions of dollars toward clean technologies while moving their investment portfolios away from fossil fuels.
This is good news and an important part of the “net positive” movement the world needs. (We outline many of these steps in our new book, Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take.) But there’s a problem: When companies make big statements about how they will power and operate their businesses, you’d think they would want to align all aspects of their operations and use all of their influence to get there. They would want to support policies that accelerate the shift to clean technologies, right?
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Unfortunately, there’s still a vast disconnect between big company goals and what those companies are advocating for in the halls of power. It’s common to see a gap between what companies say and what they do. This gap is less a “say-do” problem than a “say-say” issue: They tell the world one thing but say something quite different (or just stay quiet) behind closed doors. Whether willful or just negligent, staying silent on policy (or outright lobbying against climate action) encourages governments to proceed slowly — and that’s time we don’t have.
Measuring the Gap in Public and Private Talk
To measure this gap in rhetoric, the nongovernmental sustainability advocacy organization Ceres looked at (1) whether the S&P 100 companies are supporting aggressive, science-based climate policies and (2) how misaligned those policy interactions are with the companies’ public statements and goals.
The results, released in the report “Practicing Responsible Policy Engagement: An Assessment of Large U.S. Companies,” are not great. Ceres reached three broad conclusions, all of which demonstrate huge gaps and the say-say disconnect among the largest 100 U.S. companies:
- Those businesses are not backing up public statements with policy advocacy.