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There’s a big difference between what most companies say about climate change, and what they do. | Press "Enter" to skip to content

There’s a big difference between what most companies say about climate change, and what they do.

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Last month, Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive, wrote that the company wanted businesses it invests in to remove as much carbon dioxide from the environment as they emit by 2050 at the latest.

But crucial details were missing from the pledge, including what proportion of the companies BlackRock invests in will be zero-emission businesses in 2050. On Saturday, in response to questions from The New York Times, a BlackRock spokesman said that the company’s “ambition” was to have “net zero emissions across our entire assets under management by 2050,” The New York Times’s Peter Eavis and Clifford Krauss report.

As the biggest companies strive to trumpet their environmental activism, the need to match words with deeds is becoming increasingly important.

Household names like Costco and Netflix have not provided emissions reduction targets. Others, like the agricultural giant Cargill and the clothing company Levi Strauss, have struggled to cut emissions. Technology companies like Google and Microsoft, which run power-hungry data centers, have slashed emissions, but are finding that the technology often doesn’t exist to carry out their “moonshot” objectives.

Determining how hard companies are really trying can be very difficult when there are no regulatory standards that require uniform disclosures of important information like emissions.

Institutional Shareholder Services, a firm that advises investors on how to vote on corporate matters, analyzed what corporations are doing to reduce emissions. Just over a third of the 500 companies in the S&P 500 stock index have set ambitious targets, it found, while 215 had no target at all. The rest had weak targets.

“To realize the necessary emission reductions, more ambitious targets urgently need to be set,” said Viola Lutz, deputy head of ISS ESG Climate Solutions, an arm of Institutional Shareholder Services. “Otherwise, we project emissions for S&P 500 companies will end up being triple of what they should be in 2050.”


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