"The World Is Finally Cracking Down on ‘Greenwashing’"

"The plan to stop companies from fudging their climate goals is fundamentally flawed."

"Let’s say you want to buy a T-shirt and you want your investment to be as environmentally sustainable as possible—after all, clothing production generates 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions. How should you research your purchase? I don’t know. But I know how you shouldn’t research it: by listening to what the companies themselves say about their sustainability.

Consider Inditex, the parent company of Zara. On its website, the company claims that it is aiming for “Net Zero Emissions” by 2040. But a recent independent analysis by the nonprofit Carbon Market Watch finds the plan “ambiguous and unsubstantiated.” (A spokesperson for Inditex said in a statement that the company is “fully committed to reaching net zero across our value chain by 2040.”) Nothing about Zara’s pledge is unique. Companies certainly talk about climate more than ever before, but a majority of that seems to be pure greenwashing: meaningless humbug about “sustainability” and “net zero” and “the Earth is our priority.” A recent report from the nonprofit CDP looking at companies around the world found that of the 4,100 that say they have “transition plans” compatible with the Paris target of keeping the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), just 81 have a “credible” plan.

Greenwashing happens because companies know that a growing number of consumers and investors care about the climate, but it’s much easier to take small or symbolic actions that don’t cut into their bottom line—tiny “win-win” actions that don’t make a real difference. “If you’re spending more money to try to be a better company on the climate, your profitability may actually go down, because that might cost something,” Eric Orts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who studies sustainability, told me."

Emma Marris reports for Atlantic March 1, 2023.

Source: Atlantic, 03/02/2023