Climate protection goals are now considered good form in business. Companies like to outdo each other with the goals of when they want to become climate neutral. Surprisingly, some corporations supposedly manage that within a few months. Others put the zero CO2 mark on the year 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Climate neutrality with question marks
“Climate neutral”, however, is a flexible term. Environmental and consumer advocates warn against window dressing and even deliberate deception in the hunt for the so valuable green image. A central problem are the (supposed) climate protection projects with which companies offset their own CO2 emissions and thus calculate neutrally on paper.
But the calculation of the climate-damaging emissions of a global group is often easier said than actually proven. With billions in investments promised over the next ten years – especially in view of the Corona crisis – the question arises: Are these promises actually set in stone?
These are a few of the many companies that want to become carbon neutral.
@imago images / Scanpix
When an airline promises not to emit more CO2 than it saves, it becomes clear that climate neutrality is often a more theoretical construct. In February 2020, Delta Air Lines announced that it would be the first airline in the USA to become climate neutral. The company will invest at least one billion US dollars over the next ten years. The money is to be used, among other things, for more efficient aircraft and new types of fuels, but also for compensation projects. A commentator for the “New York Times” expected that the goal of climate neutrality would be achieved primarily through climate protection projects – because: “The industry will be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.” The commentator also raised the question of how sustainable the Acquisition of CO2 offsetting is over a decade and what could become of the program under a new CEO.
@imago images / photo2000
The largest car manufacturer in the world has committed itself to the “green zero”. As Volkswagen announced in December 2019, the entire group is to become carbon-neutral on the balance sheet by 2050. “All measures follow a three-level hierarchy: reduce, convert, compensate,” it said. Compensation via climate protection projects therefore comes last. Only “unavoidable” emissions should be offset against them and projects must meet “the highest international standards”, the group assured. The Katigan Mentaya project in Indonesia was referred to as an example. The investments prevent the clearing of a forest there. “The project only feigns climate protection,” countered Greenpeace. The environmental protection organization accused Volkswagen of acquiring “cheap and ineffective certificates” in Indonesia, because the clearing of this forest area is “highly unlikely” and has now been permanently prohibited by a moratorium, as Greenpeace announced in September 2020. The verdict of Greenpeace was: “A modern indulgence trade, which should give VW a green image.”
@imago images / CHROMORANGE
In 2019, Amazon took the “climate oath”. Amazon and the other signatories of the “Climate Pledge” undertake to make their businesses climate-neutral by 2040 and to undercut the Paris Agreement by ten years. CEO Jeff Bezos also announced the purchase of 100,000 electric delivery vans. The vehicles come from the US start-up Rivian Automotive, whose investors include Amazon. In 2020 “The Climate Pledge Fund” followed. According to the online retailer, the investment program started with two billion dollars to advance the development of sustainable and carbon-reducing technologies and services in various industries. In May 2020, for example, five new solar parks were announced in China, Australia and the USA. According to the information, other comrades-in-arms of the “Climate Pledge” include Mercedes-Benz and Siemens.
@imago images / Arcaid Images
Heathrow Airport announced in February 2020: We are climate neutral. It was one of the first major airports in the world to succeed. Heathrow’s carbon footprint should be completely zero by mid-2030. According to the company, the largest hub in Europe would be number one worldwide. The climate-neutral status only relates to the operation of the airport itself, not to air traffic or the business of the suppliers. “The airport – which is the size of a small town – was able to reduce emissions from operations by 93 percent compared to 1990 levels,” said the operator. The remaining seven percent would currently be offset by certified climate protection projects in Indonesia and Mexico. Heathrow also wants to invest more in the preservation of forests and moors in the United Kingdom.
@imago images / Jan Huebner
On May 9, 2019, Robert Bosch GmbH surprised everyone with the announcement: “As of next year, Bosch will be completely climate-neutral.” It continued: “From 2020, the more than 400 Bosch locations worldwide – from development to production to to administration – no longer leave a carbon footprint. ”Bosch is the first large industrial company to achieve this ambitious goal in just over a year. “It is not enough just to hope for climate protection. Companies should dare to be CO₂ neutral in the short term ”, demanded Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Management Board. In order for this to happen so quickly, the company relied on more green electricity and compensation measures. The proportion of renewable energies should be gradually increased by 2030. In addition, Bosch will invest a billion euros in the energy efficiency of systems and buildings over the next ten years and will take a closer look at the CO₂ footprint of products, purchased goods and logistical processes.
@imago images / Emmanuele Contini
Deutsche Post DHL Group
DHL and Deutsche Post take a longer-term approach to climate neutrality. In 2017, the group announced the goal: zero emissions by 2050. By 2025, CO2 efficiency is to be improved by 50 percent compared to 2007, 70 percent of deliveries and collections are to be made by bicycle or electric mobility and one million trees are to be planted every year. The customers’ supply chains should also become more environmentally friendly through more sustainable offers. According to its own information, the group of companies invests primarily in small climate protection initiatives in developing countries in the fields of renewable energies, waste disposal and household appliances (for example the distribution of efficient stoves and water purification devices to reduce the burning of wood).