Hedging their bets: USC report on the companies that support and oppose action on climate

A fascinating report from the Union of Concerned Scientists has just been released. It examines how some large corporates in the US have been saying one thing about action on climate change, and yet privately working to undermine effort:

“A number of the companies considered in this report took different positions on climate science and policy within the same time period. These contradictory companies acted or made statements in support of climate science and policy in some public spaces while simultaneously spreading misinformation on climate science or hindering science-based policy in others. Most notably, our research suggests that such companies are more likely to express concern about climate change in those venues directed at the general public and more likely to misrepresent climate science in communications directed at the federal government and through their funding of outside organizations…”

I believe the term we should employ here is “green washing”. Companies named in this practice include ExxonMobil (surprise!), Caterpillar and ConocoPhillips.

Employing your workforce as a fake grass-roots campaign

ConocoPhillips set up an internal program to force employees to lobby their representative politicians:

Set up an online campaign to encourage employees to contact senators to oppose legislation in spite of its active membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership

Using your workforce as a fake grassroots lobbying group? I can picture it now:

Manager: “Say Bill, did you call your representative?”

Employee: “Er, not yet….”

Manager: “Well obviously you don’t have to. But I’d really appreciate it. I mean, its tough times and we all have to support the company…”

The report notes that corporations have played a substantial role in influencing the debate on climate change:

“Corporations are devoting large amounts of funding and other resources both to facilitate Photo courtesy of National Science Foundation a Climate of Corporate Control. To address corporate interference and ultimately mitigate the impacts of climate change itself, the United States needs greater transparency in governmental and corporate affairs…

Much of this misinformation about climate science is being put forward by some of our sample’s energy-producing companies. These companies adversely affect the conversation on climate change through such means as direct public statements, political contributions, lobbying, congressional testimony, and the funding of trade groups and think tanks. Though these companies constitute a small subset of American corporations, they have a disproportionate effect on the dialogue—in part; by eroding the public’s understanding of climate change and weakening its support for steps to address the climate crisis…”

There is also a message for the media, who have failed reporting climate change:

The media should be mindful of potential conflicts of interest among the experts and other individuals they rely on for information, and the media should disclose such conflicts when found.

The media should fact-check statements made by corporations and those affiliated with them, just as they already do with statements made by politicians.

The media can help hold companies accountable for their actions and statements by reporting contradictory corporate behaviour.

Somehow I don’t see these recommendations being considered by editors of News Corporation.

Overall, this is a very well researched and important piece on the influence of corporates on the debate. 

2 thoughts on “Hedging their bets: USC report on the companies that support and oppose action on climate

  1. klem says:

    How is this a surprise? This is just what businesses do. If the flavour of the month is to be green, then these companies will show how green they are. If the flavour is blue, then these companies show how blue they are. At its heart is increasing sales. Its just good business.

  2. john byatt says:

    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2012/s3517410.htm

    Our new Queensland minister for climate change science and policy is a sceptic,
    he does not understand the science and has no policy,

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