COP27: Greenwashing concerns relating to net zero commitments

We all need to take responsibility for eliminating greenwashing and misleading claims; the packaging industry is particularly rife with greenwashing.

To combat this, we need to base strategies and improvements on accurate data rather than perception and allow for consistent measurement against targets to drive behavioural change.

“To prevent net zero from being undermined by false claims, ambiguity and greenwash” the UN created The High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities, chaired by The Honourable Catherine McKenna. This group includes academics, government and business leaders focussing on recommendations to explore the credibility of net-zero pledges from non-state actors.

The aim of the group is to identify “dishonest climate accounting and other actions” designed to circumvent deep decarbonization and their report is being shared in parallel with COP27. Many of the world’s biggest corporations have pledged to eliminate emissions, but the quality, transparency and evidence of climate plans vary significantly which raises serious concerns regarding credibility.

It has been estimated that in order to achieve the Paris Agreement’s stretch goal limiting warming to 1.50C above pre-industrial levels, every nation must cut its CO2 emissions in half by 2030, and then neutralize them by 2050. Based on media coverage, it is looking like we are moving in the opposite direction. Will we even know the true impact until we have regulation and consistent measuring and reporting? Will this be too late?

Countries and Governments do need to lead with policy and obligation, but industry has a significant part to play too. This will likely mean that the role of companies in driving down emissions will come under increased scrutiny. The UN-appointed group has expressed the need to zoom in on the quality and implementation of plans, from measurement to reporting, transparency and accountability. They have also said that to prevent greenwashing and help firms deliver on their targets, there are a series of recommendations that have been put forward, including:

  • Publicising commitments including interim targets and their alignment with climate science which span the emissions of the entire value chain.
  • Using a key metric which should be absolute emissions, rather than the intensity of the emissions of the company.
  • Making net-zero commitments obligatory, rather than voluntary.
  • Creating a net-zero task force to support cross-border regulators to drive configuration of the ground rules of the global economy to align the goals of the Paris Agreement.

These recommendations are clearly targeting the accuracy and consistency of measurement and reporting, whilst calling for global collaboration achieve net-zero. Hopefully this will also drive further regulatory requirements from businesses to drive change and accountability across all operational aspects. It will be very interesting to see as COP27 progresses, the outcomes from these discussions and if real, tangible targets will be set.

About the Author

Gaynor is a lead consultant with over 20 years of experience in packaging across manufacturing, FMCG and global brands. Her focus has spanned across sustainable packaging strategy development, format innovation and material selection, supply chain improvements through efficient packaging development and supplier engagement.

Her aim is to share her knowledge and experience to support clients in achieving their packaging sustainability goals and capitalise on all the benefits associated with sustainable packaging development.