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Is the Climate Active certification proof that your brand has achieved net zero emissions?
A friend of mine recently sent me a media release: "Telstra: How we went carbon neutral"
Immediately sceptical, as is healthy for anyone in the eco space, I took a deep dive.
A couple of hours later, I emerged with doubt and disappointment.
What I found was essentially paid-for green-washed marketing opportunities for business to roll out and quell any ethically-inclined customer frustrations.
And on the surface, it works.
It's difficult to see past the veneer of a cleverly rebranded government initiative and the engaging narratives that paint polluting companies in a 'born again' positive light.
"As a consumer you make thousands of decisions each year. Imagine if these decisions could help tackle climate change: your choices would benefit the environment and give you the power to make a difference. Climate Active certifies businesses and organisations that have proven that they are measuring, reducing and offsetting their emissions, with a net result of zero emissions. By supporting these organisations you are casting your vote for a better environment." — Climate Active
Look if I'm honest, it's all really well done. The brand, the marketing, the messaging. It feels good. I want it to be true.
But then you start scrolling through their list of certified organisations.... NAB, AGL, BP, ANZ, EnergyAustralia, CBUS Super, HESTA, Westpac.
It reads like a Who's Who of big political doners.
These orgs are well known for not giving a shit about the environment, and a fair few actively stand in the way of progress.
- NAB has loaned $7,274,000,000 to fossil fuel companies since 2016
- Energy Australia, by their own admission is "one of Australia’s largest producers of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide"
- Westpac. It tooks months of protests for them to opt out of funding the Adani coal mine.
- ANZ have loaned $10,843,000,000 to fossil fuel companies since 2016
- HESTA and CBUS both invest in fossil fuels, weaponry, gambling, etc... yuck.
- BP is one of four global businesses that are directly responsible for more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.
How in the hell is Climate Active managing to offset THAT much pollution? If they had, surely the projects that received said offset payments are powering entire nations with renewables by now.
BP's write up on the Climate Active site states "BP has invested in a deforestation reduction project located in Zambia in Africa" but over in Brazil, their despicable actions tell a very different story.
For the record, Carbon Offets do work, but only as a punitive measure. If businesses can buy as many carbon credits as they like, without having to change a thing, they'll never change.
If not done right, the purchase of offsets can act as a marketing campaign that ends up providing cover for companies’ climate-harming practices.
So does any of this smell off to you? I simply can't believe in the efficacy of any Climate Active 'certification' when they endorse companies like this.
Some may say "Oh, but at least they're doing something. Stop being so critical, man."
Companies and governments have known about the climate crisis for decades. I'll stop criticising and holding them to account when our future's not at stake. You should too.
What I want to know is, what's the organisational structure of Climate Active, who's on their board, what is their process for allocating credits, and which independent contractors are used to validate carbon neutrality submissions? None of this information is readily available in much detail on their website.
What gets me so incredibly frustrated with Climate Active is how precarious trust in ethical companies is right now, without adding into the mix another entity that's handing out certs as Get Out of Ethical Jail Free cards.
Customers are demanding to know where their money is being spent and whether they're being lied to. Companies see this as a crucial factor in their marketing campaigns, but even the tiniest crack in the facade becomes a PR nightmare. So to prevent that, most pump out grandiose statements followed by incredibly opaque supporting stats.
So given all this, I can only view Climate Active as just another opaque government-backed program to help their corporate mates do the bare minimum to tackle the climate crisis.
It's like the epiphany one has when you realise the RSPCA (AKA the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty) profits from certifying abattoirs.
As always, I'm happy to be proven wrong. And on this particular topic, I'd relish it, in fact.
But given the evidence (or lack thereof) ...I'm not so confident I will be.
Thanks for stopping by,