World leaders are meeting this week in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and climate change is high on the agenda. The UN recently released another report warning of catastrophic warming if countries don’t do much more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and soon.
Today, a growing number of companies say they will do more to reduce their emissions. More than 80 new companies announced on Monday that they had signed Climate commitment, an effort launched by Amazon and the organization Global Optimism to get more businesses to reach net zero by 2040.
But how important are corporate pledges?
Many corporate commitments are about optics as much as anything else. In the case of climate change, however, “this is a very important signal,” said Jennifer haverkamp, who heads the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. âCompanies that sign corporate commitments are a critical part of the overall momentum we need to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions. “
The details of each company’s plan to reach net-zero are also very important, Haverkamp said.
“If they have intermediate goals along the way and clear plans for how to achieve those intermediate goals, that’s a good sign,” she said.
Even for companies that have detailed plans and intermediate goals, the question remains open whether these commitments will actually lead to significant change in the near future, according to John forrer, director of the Institute for Corporate Responsibility at George Washington University.
âWhen you look at the timeline, 2040. It’s a long, long time in the future. Who knows what’s going to happen? said Forrer. âSo that makes it a bit safer for a company to make that commitment. ”
Proctor & Gamble is one of the companies that has just signed The Climate Pledge. The company has already been working to reduce emissions for some time, said Jack McAneny, who works on sustainability at P&G.
But that means that when it comes to things the company can do to cut emissions even further, “much of the fruit at hand is gone,” he said.
Much of what’s left is more difficult, the kinds of things the company can’t do on its own, like reducing emissions throughout its huge and complex supply chain. And “how do we find heat sources for our manufacturing operations that are not dependent on fossil fuels?” McAneny said.
This is why P&G signed the climate pledge, he added, to open up more opportunities for collaboration.