What’s really behind corporate promises on climate change?

There have been some advances by companies that have rigorous goals. In a report last month, Science Based Targets, which was started by environmental groups and hundreds of companies brought together by the United Nations, said that the 338 large companies around the world for which it had enough emissions data for collectively reduced their emissions. by 25 percent. between 2015 and 2019.

Often times, large companies in the same industry have very different records.

For example, Walmart discloses its emission reduction targets and the progress it has made on the Carbon Disclosure Project, including a target for its suppliers’ emissions, and its plan has been vetted by Science Based Targets. But Costco doesn’t expect to have commitments to cut emissions until the end of next year. Costco executives declined to comment.

Netflix is ​​often compared to tech giants like Google and Microsoft. But Netflix has yet to set a goal to reduce emissions caused by its offices, production activities and the computer servers it uses. “Climate action is important and we will announce our plans in the spring, which will include targets based on climate science,” the company said in a statement.

Reducing emissions is difficult. Businesses must reliably measure the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for which they are responsible. So companies have to find cleaner sources of energy without hurting their operations. When they cannot find cleaner substitutes, companies often pay others to reduce emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The task becomes even more difficult when companies begin the process of reducing so-called Scope 3 emissions – pollution caused by suppliers and customers. In oil companies, for example, Scope 3 would include emissions from gasoline-powered cars.

BlackRock, with $ 8.7 trillion in assets under management, including stakes in many companies, clearly faces a daunting task. The company does not directly own most of the stocks or bonds it buys, it manages them for pension funds, other corporations and individual investors, limiting the amount of climate activism it can pursue. Plus, most of your investment products track indices like the S&P 500, so you inevitably end up managing stocks in fossil fuel companies.

Many Wall Street companies have pledged to achieve zero net emissions from their loans and other financial activities, but have not made clear whether that goal applies to the stocks and bonds they manage for clients. BlackRock’s decision to list all the assets it manages could pressure other financial giants to make similar commitments, but it could upset the fossil fuel industries and their political supporters in Congress.

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