Many companies post copious amounts of words stating how they are committed to sustainability and strive to prevent the risks of climate change. But in the end, it is action that shows true commitment to sustainability. For better or worse, the 24/7 news cycle and the explosion of social media show that when companies make claims about their social and environmental sustainability, they need to back them up — and that includes the trade organizations to which companies belong.
To that end, Volvo announced last week that it is leaving the National Mining Association (NMA). According to a letter to Greenpeace and reports in the Swedish press, Volvo’s executives decided to leave the NMA over the lobbying group’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. One United Kingdom nonprofit, InfluenceMap, sums up the NMA’s stance on climate change in one letter: F.
Despite Volvo’s claims that it is committed to sustainability, and is making continued progress on energy efficiency and alternative fuels, critics insisted its membership in the NMA raised plenty of questions. After the Swedish broadcasting network SVT pointed out that the NMA had spent over $100 million the past five years attacking the reliability of clean energy while touting the benefits of coal, an email exchange with Volvo led to the automaker announcing that it would rescind its NMA membership. It was a quite a turnaround from earlier in the week, when Volvo’s leadership, attending the COP21 talks in Paris, admitted that the company was a member of NMA for three or four years, but threw in a caveat that it did not support the lobbying group’s stance on climate change.
Volvo’s announcement is a victory for environmental advocacy groups including Greenpeace, which has been relentless in its attacks against “climate deniers.” The organization has kept tabs on other companies and professional services firms that are NMA members, including PwC and EY. Meanwhile another Swedish manufacturing firm, SKF, also announced it was quitting its NMA membership.
Global events such as COP21 often bring the knives out: Greenpeace and its peers are quick to highlight inconsistencies in what a company says as opposed to what trade organizations or lobbying groups it supports. Whether a company is a member of NMA or ALEC, Volvo’s recent announcement shows that it is not enough to simply announce a more responsible policy or trumpet a drop in emissions. The old adage, “be careful of the company you keep,” certainly applied here.
Image credit: Volvo