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When greenwashing goes bad

22 Sep 2021 | OP ED Watch

In a recent piece in the New York Times, one Auden Schendler, author of “Getting Green Done”, winner of awards and praise beyond counting, and now Senior VP of Sustainability with the Aspen Skiing Company, says that most companies are just faking it. “Everybody’s going carbon neutral these days, from the big boys — Amazon, Microsoft, Unilever, Starbucks, JetBlue — to your favorite outdoor brand, even ski resorts. Probably your neighborhood coffee roaster, too…. Seems admirable.” But sadly “Carbon neutrality doesn’t achieve any sort of systemic change. A coal-powered business could be entirely carbon neutral as long as it stops some landfill gas in Malaysia from entering the atmosphere equal to the emissions it’s still releasing.” Wait isn’t that a good thing? No—because then we wouldn’t feel the need to stop using fossil fuels. And that’s the real point. “But distressingly,” he observed, “most businesses don’t want to play in that arena. Instead, they’re doing exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants: staying in their lane, accepting some blame for a global problem and maintaining the dominance of fossil fuels.” Boo corporations. But why don’t they want to “play in that arena”? Maybe because the games always end with the lions eating the prisoners.

Some corporations probably realize that “systemic change”, aka getting rid of fossil fuels, would ruin everything, eliminating their capacity to make or transport their products which wouldn’t be a big deal since their customers wouldn’t be able to buy them if they did. And if so they’re lying on purpose which does rather make them rogues. But others are just fools. Possibly including Walmart, according to The Guardian.

Many of these “businesses,” a word here meaning the people who own, manage and work for them, really do think carbon offsets work and go home and sleep the sleep of the just. They just don’t understand that any proposal to get rid of the energy sources on which we all depend without causing pain is nonsensical. But either way this green posturing is not reducing emissions.

So what is to be done? Schendler’s solution, oddly, is to stop looking for practical measures and start pumping wind into windbags. “Imagine if businesses put as much effort into climate lobbying as climate neutrality. Corporations wield tremendous influence over the political system. But on climate, most have decided to sit this one out. Notably, the five biggest tech corporations — Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon — spend only 4 percent of their lobbying dollars on climate, according to Influence Map. As a result, they avoid the chance to put in place systemic solutions in favor of carbon-neutral navel-gazing. Large corporations will protest, saying that they are lobbying on climate. But they are typically working both sides of the aisle.”

You can imagine what would happen if some firm took down the “carbon neutral” signs and said “We’re sending cash to lobbyists” instead.

He then exposes the Big Oil plot. Including that “A study by Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran at Harvard published in May in the journal One Earth found that since 1972, ExxonMobil has consistently used ‘rhetoric aimed at shifting responsibility for climate change away from itself and onto consumers.’” On the apparent theory that the only reason consumers bought fuel was Exxon forced them to. Which is not economics the way Adam Smith understood it.

Anyway, the idea now is for companies to force politicians to force consumers to stop using reliable energy, and hope the math works out.

It won’t.

One comment on “When greenwashing goes bad”

  1. "the idea now is for companies to force politicians to force consumers to stop using reliable energy" Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

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