Amazon, Google, Apple, Walmart behind on climate change pledge: report

  • The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor says companies have overstated their climate promises.
  • Amazon and Google were rated weak in terms of integrity and transparency.
  • Apple and Walmart displayed reasonable levels of transparency.
  • The researchers recommend a more standardized approach to disclosing climate change commitments.

A report released on Monday says companies that have made ambitious public pledges to tackle climate change are overstating their targets and lacking in transparency.

The report, titled Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, examines 25 high-income global companies that have made climate change mitigation commitments across various sectors and countries. It rates each company with a measure of its levels of transparency and integrity, based on a five-point scale for each (high, reasonable, medium, low, very low).

Consumer-facing companies that scored low on transparency and integrity included Amazon and Google, while companies like Walmart and Apple showed reasonable levels of transparency, according to the report.

The report examines how companies are addressing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the production of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Many companies have achieved or are on track to eliminate scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, but have not created a comprehensive plan to get rid of scope 3 emissions, which account for the vast majority of these emissions. businesses.

“I have to admit we were quite shocked by the extent of creativity some companies are applying to claim a credible path to net zero emissions, and the amount of effort it takes to reveal it,” says Sybrig Smit , climate policy analyst. and co-author of the report. “Net-zero promises and similar goals are not what they may seem. They require detailed assessment; in the majority of cases, they cannot be taken at face value.”

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The researchers recommended a better approach for companies to disclose whether or not they are meeting climate change goals that require more transparency.

“There is currently no standardized approach for disclosing information on climate goals and actions; it has required significant resources from us, the analysts, to understand what companies are actually committing to and to identify the key details that have at times significantly undermined those engagements,” says Smit. .

Google scores poorly on transparency and integrity

Google’s primary sources of emissions come from the manufacture and use of products and electricity consumption in data centers.

While the report’s authors call Google’s decarbonization efforts “comprehensive and innovative,” they criticize Google’s reliance on controversial carbon offset programs, which involve offsetting pollution by removing carbon elsewhere through the land restoration or tree planting. The report also alleges that Google has not clarified whether its plans are sufficient to address Scope 3 emissions, which make up the majority of Google’s greenhouse gas emissions footprint.

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY.

Apple scores reasonable for transparency, moderate for integrity

Apple, on the other hand, scored reasonable on transparency and moderate on integrity. It has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality across its entire business by 2030, and average annual emissions reductions showed Apple is on track to meet that goal, the report says. .

Apple’s 2020 claim that it is carbon neutral only applies to its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, which are only 1.5% of the greenhouse gas footprint of the company, the report says. The remaining 98.5% that Apple has not yet eliminated comes from goods and services for manufacturing products, i.e. its Scope 3 emissions.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY.

Walmart Scores Reasonable for Transparency, Low for Integrity

Walmart has set reasonable goals to reduce its operational emissions to zero by 2040, with intermediate goals in 2025 and 2030.

However, most of its emissions come from scope 3 emissions, and Walmart has set no emissions reduction targets, relying on supplier commitments to voluntarily reduce emissions themselves, according to the report.

Walmart responded to USA TODAY saying it was indeed tackling Scope 3 emissions.

“This report does not accurately characterize Walmart’s climate goals and actions, and the authors have not provided an opportunity to provide corrections. Walmart is on track to meet the science-based Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions reduction targets set in 2016,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart.

Ewing also mentioned that Walmart employees are working with suppliers to avoid a gigatonne (1 billion metric tons) of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and pointed to public disclosure records that show how Walmart plans. reduce scope 3 emissions.

Amazon scores low for transparency and integrity

Amazon’s ecological footprint comes from a variety of sources, given its involvement in both e-commerce logistics and data centers for its cloud computing technology.

The company has committed to net zero carbon by 2040, but the report claims this is unsubstantiated and not sufficiently clear.

Amazon disputes the report, telling USA TODAY, “Amazon regularly reports our carbon footprint. Our own carbon footprint report is publicly available.”

Amazon also points out that it plans to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and deploy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030.

The report raises questions such as whether their commitment refers only to carbon dioxide emissions or all greenhouse gases and whether Amazon plans to meet its target using carbon offsets rather than carbon-based solutions. nature.

An Amazon spokesperson expressed support for nature-based solutions such as conservation, restoration and improved land management actions, citing Amazon’s LEAF Coalition, a global public-private initiative aimed at to raise at least $1 billion to protect the world’s tropical rainforests.

However, the reason for its low ratings, according to the report, is its lack of granularity in its data. While Amazon has made considerable efforts to test decarbonization techniques, reduce third-party emissions, and invest in renewable energy, their transparency is limited, making it difficult to assess Amazon’s effectiveness at a level more detailed, according to the report.

Michelle Shen is a Money & Tech digital reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her @michelle_shen10 on Twitter.

Teresa H. Sadler