Times article: Big businesses are told ‘Your ‘greenwash’ tactics won’t wash’

Times article: Big businesses are told ‘Your ‘greenwash’ tactics won’t wash’

Greenwashing is set to be a key issue at the Cop27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, which starts today, writes Ben Spencer for the Times.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg last week said she will not attend the conference because it is rife with “many different kinds of greenwashing”. Activists have criticised the involvement of Coca-Cola — named the world’s worst plastic polluter for the last four years — as a sponsor of the two-week event.

Rishi Sunak will urge world leaders at the conference not to backtrack on promises made last year in Glasgow, as the Ukraine war and cost of living crisis threatens to undermine the legacy of Cop26.

Ben Caldecott, director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Group at Oxford University, said: “We have obviously made progress in getting companies signed up. But quite a few of those companies don’t understand what they’ve signed up to. And we are now seeing, with GFANZ in particular, members saying they won’t adhere to new criteria.

“The integrity architecture we need — who mobilises, sets the criteria, marks the homework, holds organisations to account, names and shames, tracks progress — does not really exist. I despair a bit that we haven’t made enough progress on that since last year. If companies are just allowed to make promises and nobody tracks them, and there is no accountability, then it undermines confidence. And once bitten, twice shy. Then what? Are we going to ask them to set yet more targets after they didn’t meet the last ones?”

But Caldecott said the drive to net zero does not mean investors should be forced to sell all shares in oil and gas firms. “I don’t think the emphasis on net-zero portfolio decarbonisation is necessarily the right thing. It just makes it somebody else’s problem. We need to enable companies in the financial services sector to help companies transition to net zero. If they exit because they’ve got some portfolio target, that can result in paper decarbonisation that starves these companies of capital. And that is counterproductive.”

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