Nearly half of the world’s 100 largest companies, including Procter & Gamble and Duke Energy, are “obstructing climate change legislation,” according to a study released last week by the London-based nonprofit NGO InfluenceMap.
And it gets worse: Almost all (95 percent) of these companies are members of trade associations that act in the same obstructionist manner. The recently formed InfluenceMap uses a new research methodology it developed in conjunction with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
InfluenceMap’s research found that despite their public communications, few corporations have actually supported the progressive climate policies being proposed by governments globally.
“More and more, we’re seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies,” Gretchen Goldman, an adviser to InfluenceMap and the lead analyst for UCS’ Center for Science and Democracy, said in a statement. “Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change.”
There also remains a lack of transparency around their relationships with trade associations, with very few companies willing to publicly challenge them despite “clear misalignment” between their climate positions and the actions of the associations. “That said, almost half of the world’s largest companies have also recently been involved in directly advocating against climate policy, including BMW, EDF and Boeing, companies that highlight their own sustainability credentials,” says InfluenceMap.
Corporate influence over the climate change debate and policy process is often cited as a key reason for the relatively slow progress of both the U.N. COP process and national-level climate legislation, InfluenceMap noted. “The research also shows that corporate influence over climate extends beyond the activities normally associated with lobbying, including intervention in the public discourse on climate change science and policy via advertising, PR, social media and access to decision-makers, as well as the use of influencers, such as trade associations and advocacy groups.”
Breaking the obstructive trend, Unilever (owner of Dove, Knorr, Flora and other brands) is ranked as a leader in InfluenceMap’s scoring system, supporting multiple strands of climate policy globally. This contrasts with rival P&G (owner of brands like Gillette, Wella and Ariel), which, despite its stated support for action on climate change, is a member of BusinessEurope (recently under attack in the U.K. media for its obstructionist stance toward climate legislation), and the secretive U.S. industry group, NEDA/CAP, which has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Other trade associations, including the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Australia, and the powerful Japan Business Federation, which counts almost every major Japanese company as a member, have all strongly opposed climate legislation for years.
Does it get even worse? Well yes. In a New Yorker piece last week, Bill McKibben, author, educator, environmentalist and co-founder of 350.org, wrote that InsideClimate News has published the first installment of a multi-part exposé about ExxonMobil’s long history of deception on climate change.
The documents and interviews InsideClimate News conducted with retired employees and officials “show that, as early as 1977, Exxon (now ExxonMobil), knew that its main product would heat up the planet disastrously. This did not prevent the company from then spending decades helping to organize the campaigns of disinformation and denial that have slowed — perhaps fatally — the planet’s response to global warming,” McKibben wrote. He continued:
“An Exxon senior scientist named James Black was, according to his own notes, able to tell the company’s management committee that there was ‘general scientific agreement’ that what was then called the greenhouse effect was most likely caused by man-made C02; a year later, speaking to an even wider audience inside the company, he said that research indicated that if we doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, we would increase temperatures two to three degrees Celsius. That’s just about where the scientific consensus lies to this day.” Note: This was in 1977!
Is any of this surprising? Not really, because, well, corporate power always rules. In Exxon’s case, it was “the road not taken” in order to protect its business.
But the length and depth of the deceit and hypocrisy — at the extreme cost to the planet for nearly 40 years, and continuing to this day — is shameful, disgusting and depressing.
Image courtesy of InfluenceMap