Briefing

Australian companies are being told to end the 'greenwashing' as a new report shows just how far they are from their climate targets

Climate activists are demanding Australian companies do better on climate. (Jenny Evans, Getty Images)

When companies make ambitious environmental commitments, it pays to find out who is actually walking the walk. If the latest data is anything to go on, there is just one Australian corporate who stands to deliver on their promises.

Climate Action 100+, the investor-led coalition in charge of $70 trillion of assets, has been pressuring companies to drive the global transition to net-zero emissions. Since 2018, it has put some of Australia’s biggest polluters on notice, pressuring the likes of AGL Energy, BHP and Santos to do better.

On Tuesday, the powerful group laid bare the progress of 167 corporates around the world, which it says are responsible for 80% of private sector emissions, in a new ‘Benchmark’ report.

For the dozen Australian companies assessed, the verdict is damning, according to the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR).

“None of the 12 Australian companies in the Climate Action 100+ initiative have aligned their capital expenditure with the Paris Agreement,” ACCR director of climate Dan Goocher said, noting BHP, Origin Energy, Santos and Woodside all actually “plan to significantly increase fossil fuel production over the next 5-10 years”.

“Despite widespread support for net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, only Woolworths has set an ambitious 2030 target. Everyone else is kicking the can down the road.”

Each company refuses to include indirect, or so-called Scope 3, emissions. By not including these targets, mining giants like BHP – which supply major polluters in Asia – conveniently ignore the largest part of their carbon footprint.

But the faults of Australian corporates run deeper, with most of the 12 failing to meet criteria across nine areas of measurement. Those include long and short term greenhouse gas reduction targets, decarbonisation strategy, and climate governance.

In fact, the scorecard right around the world was middling. Just two of all 167 companies received a tick of approval for their climate policy engagement, while now had even committed to aligning capital expenditure with the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Despite failing to actually deliver on their pledges however, advocates praised the report with ACCR executive director Brynn O’Brien claiming it “heralds the end of greenwashing”.

“It is cast-iron proof that the world’s largest emitters are failing to materially rein in their impact on the planet, and that investor strategies to engage them have not yet risen to the challenge,” O’Brien said. “There is no longer room for praising company posturing and losing sight of the need for genuine progress.”

“In the context of the emerging global norm of companies offering shareholders an annual vote on their transition strategies, this benchmark analysis will provide an incredibly useful baseline.”

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