Corporate Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Some of America’s largest corporations have spent the past few years cultivating public images as climate-forward companies. Apple has promised to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030 and vastly expanded the amount of recycled materials in its products. Microsoft goes one step further, saying they’ll be carbon-negative in less than ten years and pledging to remove all the carbon it has ever emitted by 2050. Amazon is looking to be net-zero carbon across its entire empire by 2040. Disney has a wide-reaching climate plan that entails drastically reducing its water consumption and plastic usage, while also obtaining materials exclusively from sustainable sources.

On their face, these promises are not just ambitious, but hope-inspiring. They allow consumers to feel as though they are making the right choice by spending their money with businesses that care about the future of our planet. But these corporations’ actions behind the scenes tell a very different story.

Ignoring the Ongoing Damage

These pledges fail to recognize the amount of damage most of the corporations above have already done. Supply chains alone make these companies bad for the environment.

Think about the amount of fuel expended to get your Amazon package from the warehouse to your front door, or the number of plastic bubble mailers used to ship products. (Let’s face it, those “recyclable” mailers rarely make it to a store drop-off.)

Consider the 53.6 million tons of e-waste generated in 2019 alone, often driven by companies like Apple and Microsoft making their older technologies obsolete. Few of the devices these companies offer to recycle actually reach that point, and then there’s still the energy used to send these items back.

All of this falls into the category of “greenwashing” – marketing products and practices are far more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

Lobbying Against Progress

These anti-environmental business practices extend beyond the supply and demand framework. They have a heavy hand in influencing our legislation.

As debate continues on the Build Back Better Act, major companies are teaming up to block measures that would ultimately hurt their bottom line. The bill’s climate plan represents the largest investment in environmental policy in U.S. history. To implement it, however, requires raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. And that’s where lobbying comes in.

The US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the RATE Coalition have lobbied extensively to kill the Build Back Better Act in recent months. Microsoft has representation on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. Chief executives from Amazon, Apple, and Google are members of the Business Roundtable, rubbing elbows with Exxon CEP Darren Woods. Even Disney, which has a reputation for effectively working to meet its sustainability goals, is a member of the RATE Coalition.

“Major corporations love to tell us how committed they are to addressing the climate crisis and building a sustainable future, but behind closed doors, they are funding the very industry trade groups that are fighting tooth and nail to stop the biggest climate change bill ever,” said Kyle Herrig, president of the anti-corruption watchdog group Accountable.US.

The fact of the matter is, the reasons that these corporations are members of these lobbying groups are irrelevant. Talking the talk on mitigating climate change requires a commitment to walk the walk, whether that be on the ground or in the halls of Washington.

Corporations and their lobbyists cannot be allowed to steer our climate policy in a world on the brink of environmental disaster. It’s time to get money OUT of politics!