Greenwashing detectors at the ready: How to stay sceptical in the year of corporate climate pledges
by Katie Jones
What's Going On Here?
This week Amazon announced a 2-billion-dollar Climate Pledge to achieve zero carbon by 2040. The venture capital fund will power development into green operations across multiple industries, including transportation and logistics, energy generation, storage and utilisation, manufacturing and materials, circular economy, and food and agriculture. Pretty extensive eh?
What Does This Mean?
This year we’ll see an onslaught of environmental pledges coming from the world’s biggest polluters, outlining their commitment to catch up, reduce and repair their environmental damage.
Pledges such as this win the company lots of positive press and attention. Whilst there’s no denying that pumping money into green technologies and operations is a good thing, it feels like an important time to put our critical glasses on, step back and look at the wider context, before giving Amazon anything close to a pat on the back.
👉🏾 Amazon is currently worth 315 billion dollars, and their profits grew by 22% in 2019👉🏾 Tax avoidance, poor employee conditions - growth which has been at the expense of people👉🏾 Their emissions from burning fossil fuels grew by 18.5% in 2019 - growth which has come from exploiting the environment, not to mention contributing to over consumerism👉🏾 Amazon employees have been striking since last September to put urgent pressure on Bezos and senior management to take climate change seriously👉🏾 In January, Microsoft announced a 1 billion dollar carbon capture fund. This is one of many recent environmental reform policies from global corporations.
A bit of context here helps to view this pledge more sceptically: do they genuinely care about creating a better future - or are they simply cleaning up after a binge of destruction?
Why Should We Care?
‘does this company care more about advertising and marketing a green message to me than they do about minimising their environmental impact?’
Other factors that should be setting off your greenwashing detector include:⚠️ If sustainability is not in the business plan.Businesses should be sustainable from the core.⚠️ If it’s a trend or going to make them a lot of money.Are their long-term environmental motivations in check?⚠️ If it’s an overinflated claim. ‘100% ethical’, or ‘100% sustainable’ are not often a thing.⚠️ If there are too many buzzwords.Are they defining their terms and using facts?
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