Last year, in anticipation of the COP21 UN climate change summit in Paris, President Obama convinced more than 150 companies to sign the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” which commits them to sustainable business practices and signaled that these businesses support the UN agreement to drastically cut down on greenhouse gasses. After Reuters reporters studied the donations made during the 2016 election cycle by the biggest publically traded companies from Obama’s Climate Pledge list, they found 25 out of 30 also funded the campaigns of lawmakers listed as ‘climate change deniers’, most of whom are Republican.
The most duplicitous companies considering their pledge were Pepsi and DuPont, whose political action committees offered about half or more of their top donation money to senators and congressmen on the Organizing For Action’s climate change denier list. Pepsi handed out $56,500 to climate deniers, while DuPon gave $40,000. The political action committees (PACs) of Google, AT&T, GE, Verizon, and Mondelez each directed at least a third of their funds to climate change deniers. Some call themselves climate change skeptics, but as we’ve previously reported the two aren’t interchangeable.
“The five companies reviewed by Reuters that did not fund opponents to Obama’s climate change agenda either had no political action committee, like Apple, or made only a small number of contributions, like Coca Cola,” Reuters wrote.
The list includes more than 130 members of Congress, the vast majority Republican, who actively seek to undermine Obama’s environmental policy. Some are more radical, like Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma who last year threw a snowball on the Congress floor to prove that man-made climate change is a sham and famously said ‘only God can change the climate’. Others like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa are more moderate acknowledging climate change but, nevertheless, block climate mitigation measures because these hurt the competitiveness of American businesses.
Yet, both Grassley and Inhofe, along with scores of other climate change deniers with political power, have been funded by companies that ought to know better, at least judging from what they publically committed to.
It’s not uncommon, to use a euphemism, for companies to spread their funds across the whole political spectrum. This way, no matter who wins, businesses know at least they have an open door to lobby their interests. All of these corporations, however, might want to reconsider how they behave. In essence, what they’re doing is called “greenwashing” — deceptive PR used to create the impression that a company’s services, product or mission is environmentally friendly.
Many of the companies on this shame list gathered by Reuters have indeed made progress in improving their carbon footprint and sustainability. Pepsi has the largest fleet of electric delivery trucks and Google gets 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy in its data centers than five years ago. But besides being lame and deceptive, playing both sides might hurt their business as the public becomes more and more environmentally conscious. Jon Lukomnik, head of the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute says this inconsistency between a company’s environmental position and its political financial is in need of better oversight.
“No company should want to be perceived as espousing progressive climate policies on the one hand, while funding climate deniers on the other,” Lauren Compere, managing director at sustainable investment manager Boston Common Asset Management told Reuters.