Nearly half of corporations block climate policy through trade group links

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 16 Sep 2016 00:01
Big business supports lobby groups that block climate action
Big business supports lobby groups that block climate action

A new study has found 45% of the 100 largest global industrial companies are blocking climate change legislation, while 95% of these companies are members of trade associations demonstrating the same obstructive tactics.

The findings were published by the newly formed London-based, non-profit InfluenceMap, using a unique research methodology developed with US based Union of Concerned Scientists.

Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at the Union of concerned Scientists, said big business was often hiding behind lobby organisations to dampen down climate action regulations.

She added: “More and more, we’re seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies. Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change. It is unacceptable that companies can obstruct climate action in this way without any accountability.”

The research also shows that corporate influence over climate extends beyond the activities normally associated with lobbying, including intervention in the public discourse on climate change science and policy via advertising, PR, social media, and access to decision makers, as well as the use of influencers, such as trade associations and advocacy groups.

Breaking this obstructive trend, Unilever (owners of Dove, Knorr, Flora and other brands) are ranked as leaders in InfluenceMap's scoring system, supporting multiple strands of climate policy globally. This contrasts with rivals Procter & Gamble (owners of brands Gillette, Wella and Ariel), which, despite their stated support for action on climate change, are members of BusinessEurope (recently under attack in the UK media for their obstructionist stance towards climate legislation) and the secretive US industry group, NEDA/CAP, who have been suing the US EPA to prevent them using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Other trade associations, including the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Australia, and the all-powerful Japan Business Federation, which counts almost every major Japanese firm as a member, have all strongly opposed most climate legislation for years.

InfluenceMap's research found that despite their public communications, few corporations have actually supported the progressive climate policies being proposed by governments globally. There also remains a lack of transparency around their relationships with trade associations, with very few companies willing to publicly challenge them despite clear misalignment between their climate positions and the actions of the associations.

That said, almost half of the world’s largest companies have also recently been involved in directly advocating against climate policy, including BMW, BASF and Boeing, all companies which highlight their own sustainability credentials.

Paul Dickinson, Executive Chairman of CDP, commented: “There is a lack of detailed analysis available in this area and sadly great companies sometimes do bad things by lobbying against government action to avoid dangerous climate change."

Investors are increasingly using sustainability ratings to inform their decision-making processes. Dylan Tanner, InfluenceMap, Executive Director, said: “Mainstream fund managers are now attaching climate-lobbying criteria to their investment decisions, such as the $850 billion Norwegian Government Pension Fund, which in April of this year announced new standards allowing it to exclude companies responsible for unacceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions, criteria that are likely to include obstructive influence over climate policy.”

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