Study: Apple, other companies exaggerate their environmental progress

Apple constantly reminds us of its “green” efforts, but a new report says it and, well, just about every other company exaggerates their progress when it comes to environmental issues.

About the report

Per the “Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022”, the headline climate pledges of 25 of the world’s largest companies in reality only commit to reduce their emissions by 40% on average, not 100% as suggested by their “net zero” and “carbon neutral” claims, according to a new analysis.

These are the findings of a study conducted by NewClimate Institute in collaboration with Carbon Market Watch. It evaluates 25 major companies – operating across different sectors and geographies – to determine the transparency and integrity of their headline climate pledges.

Companies’ headline climate pledges require detailed evaluation and in the majority of cases cannot be taken at face value, the report finds. Only one company’s net zero pledge was evaluated as having “reasonable integrity”; three with “moderate”, ten with “low” and the remaining 12 were rated as having “very low” integrity.

“We set out to uncover as many replicable good practices as possible, but we were frankly surprised and disappointed at the overall integrity of the companies’ claims” said Thomas Day of NewClimate Institute, lead author of the study. “As pressure on companies to act on climate change rises, their ambitious-sounding headline claims all too often lack real substance, which can mislead both consumers and the regulators that are core to guiding their strategic direction. Even companies that are doing relatively well exaggerate their actions.”

For the minority of the evaluated 25 companies, their headline pledges serve as a useful long-term vision, and are substantiated by specific short term emission reduction targets. While none of the pledges have a high degree of integrity overall, Maersk came out on top, with reasonable integrity, followed by Apple, Sony and Vodafone with moderate integrity.

However, the majority of the companies with net zero or carbon neutrality pledges fail to put forward ambitious targets, according to the report. It adds that many company pledges are undermined by contentious plans to reduce emissions elsewhere, hidden critical information and accounting tricks. Overall, the analysis finds the headline pledges of Amazon, Deutsche Telekom, Enel, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hitachi, IKEA, Vale, Volkswagen and Walmart have low integrity and those of Accenture, BMW Group, Carrefour, CVS Health, Deutsche Post DHL, E.ON SE, JBS, Nestlé, Novartis, Saint-Gobain and Unilever have very low integrity.

The NewClimate Institute said that the 13 companies that have backed their net zero headline pledges with explicit emission reduction commitments commit, on average, to reduce their full value chain emissions from 2019 by only 40%. The other 12 have no specific emissions reduction commitments for their net zero target year, it adds.

The headline pledges of just three of the 25 companies – Maersk, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom – clearly commit to deep decarbonization of over 90% of their full value chain emissions, according to the NewClimate Institute. At least five of the companies would effectively only reduce their emissions by less than 15%, often by excluding downstream or upstream emissions in their value chain, the report adds. 

But some companies take issue with the report

However, some of the companies told BBC News they disagreed with some of the methods used in the report and said they were committed to taking action to curb climate change. Apple didn’t respond directly to the report but told BBC News it has a plan to reduce its carbon footprint.

The New Climate Institute “conducts research and analysis to support the international climate negotiations, including options for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.” Carbon Market Watch is an organization dedicated to “fair and effective climate action.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.