EDF launches new tool to highlight corporate action on climate policy

“Climate Authenticity Meter” assesses if business actions support or obstruct climate policy progress

October 1, 2020
Cristina Mestre, (212) 616-1268, cmestre@edf.org

(WASHINGTON – October 1, 2020) On the heels of Climate Week, Environmental Defense Fund today unveiled the Climate Authenticity Meter, a new tool that rates how companies and industry groups’ lobbying activities support or obstruct progress on climate policy.

Despite unprecedented public health, social justice and economic challenges, leading companies continue to set net-zero emissions goals and invest in low-carbon strategies and innovations. While these actions are critical, they are not enough to bend the curve on global emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Only well-designed public policy can deliver emissions reductions at the speed and scale needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change, while promoting equity, protecting communities and ensuring a thriving economy.

“Corporate climate leadership must include using the most powerful tool that companies have to fight climate change: their political influence,” said Victoria Mills, managing director of EDF+Business, Environmental Defense Fund’s corporate engagement program. “With net zero as the new business imperative, companies and investors need to get off the sidelines and champion the public policies required to build a better, more sustainable and more equitable future.”

The Climate Authenticity Meter is the first-ever tool that ranks corporate policy actions in real-time, based on whether they support or obstruct progress on climate policy. The Meter complements the in-depth research conducted by groups such as InfluenceMap and the Center for Political Accountability. It assesses corporate political actions using the AAA Framework for Climate Policy Leadership, which is endorsed by 10 leading environmental and sustainable business organizations that work with companies.

Included in the inaugural set of Climate Authenticity Meter ratings – and a preview of EDF’s assessments – are

Highly supportive actions:

  • The CEO Climate Dialogue met with lawmakers in September to advocate for climate policy. Making climate policy a CEO-level priority and meeting directly with lawmakers clearly supports progress on climate policy
  • More than 30 major companies called on policymakers this summer to support clean energy provisions in COVID-19 recovery spending. By urging lawmakers to prioritize support for clean energy in COVID recovery packages, these companies are supporting progress on climate policy, focusing on where they can have the greatest impact in the current moment.

Supportive actions:

  • The Business Roundtable released its climate policy statement, a big step in the right direction for a group of its size and influence. So far, however, it’s just a statement – a promise to lead. Time will tell if the BRT and its members follow through with the advocacy required to move climate policy forward.
  • VF Corp, Brown-Forman Corp. and Simon Property Group, Inc.’s agreed to fully disclose their political spending, setting a new norm for transparency that other companies should follow. The next step for these companies and others is to follow disclosure with advocacy that advances climate policy.

Obstructive actions:

  • The vast majority of companies that remain silent on climate policy or that let their trade associations advocate on their behalf. As the report card notes, inaction obstructs climate policy because it implies consent to the status quo, and “effectively endorses the anti-climate advocacy agenda of powerful industry groups.”

Highly obstructive actions:

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce earned two “highly obstructs” ratings. Although the Chamber claims to support “an approach that rises to the challenge of climate change,” the group has joined the Trump Administration’s attack on state authority to set vehicle emission standards, which are essential for reducing air pollution and protecting public health.  
  • The Chamber’s second “highly obstructs” rating is due to its support for limiting access environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds, a move that would make it much harder for fiduciaries to factor in climate change risks into their investment decisions.

“Investors are increasingly urging businesses to take aggressive action address climate change. It is gratifying to see numerous big-name companies step up increasing disclosure and setting ambitious climate targets,” said Timothy Smith, Director of ESG Shareowner Engagement at Boston Trust Walden. “The problem is that most companies still aren’t using their voice and lobbying power, including that of their trade associations, to promote policies that will meaningfully reduce climate risk. The Climate Authenticity Meter is a much-needed tool for evaluating corporate leadership on climate change.”

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on our EDF+Business blog, EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.