We are heading towards sustainability and a better way, or are we?A look into some sustainability efforts of large companies while asking, "can we trust these claims?"
We are heading towards sustainability and a better way, or are we?
Today everything is “green” in part or in full.
Yesterday I watched a TV show that stated that even it was green. What makes it green? How can it be greener than before? Do they use less carbon, less energy or what else have they done to enable them to say that they are green?
Meta, the new name that Facebook has adopted. Are full on with sustainability. They are so good. At least that is what they are stating.
“In 2020, we achieved net zero emissions in our operations by reducing emissions by 94 percent* and supporting carbon removal projects.”
Or another one of their other statements:
“Our vision is a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, where no one is left behind. At Facebook, we have achieved net zero emissions in our global operations and plan to reach net zero emissions for our value chain in 2030”
This all sounds super good. But how true are these statements and how can we as customers know that what they say is true? The usage of Facebook here is powered by a coal power plant or electricity from China that is also most likely coal or nuclear. Their statement suggested that 100% work from home electricity is renewable. So, either there are no operations by Facebook in Hong Kong or Asia or they have done something by magic. They have built their own grid with only renewable energy flowing through. That sounds unlikely?
Meta managed to reduce by 94%. That is staggering. Not quite zero, then it should be 100%, but how can they? Sounds almost impossible unless you add some clever statistics and remove some data from the calculation. Meta use “carbon removal projects” that effectively means they pay for their emission rather than reduce. In a corporate world you have many options to become zero without really be zero emission. Buying carbon credits been possible for a couple of decades and it is like any other financial instrument. You pay yourself clean. While you change little to nothing on your actual emission.
To put it in context so we get some relative data to this and many similar schemes. Taken straight from the web “Swiss start-up Climeworks AG, which specialises in capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air, has partnered with Icelandic carbon storage firm Carbfix to develop a plant that sucks out up to 4,000 tons of CO2 per year. That’s the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 790 cars” This has to be compared to the total number of cars “There are 1.446 billion cars in the world in 2022” .so is it really making any difference. Wouldn’t the actual reduction of cars be a better option. What are the costs to capture the carbon and how much energy is consumed while doing this? Is it even net a positive result? Why not reduce the number of cars by 0.000000546% (thats 5.46×10^-7 for the scientific minded of you out there) sounds easier and a lot less expensive, and is the exact same proportion, doesnt look so significant from that point of view.
How many company cars and how many cars are used by Meta/Facebook? And what is the carbon removal projects value? Does it even negate their usage of company cars? Greenwashing however you try to hide it.
“Green gloves over dirty fingers does not make clean hands”
So then all is bad? Not at all. It is the way we are moving forward towards something better. The world will not change without taking steps.
The first step will always see the easy things done. The one when you can say you are rather than being sustainable. You tell people and try to convince them how good you are or at least how good you can be. That is really not helping anyone or anything but it works to create the momentum to the next step. This, the first, step is full of companies offering all kinds of services and solutions that enable us not to change the way we live and consume. It is as effective as adding a function to a computer that is already over loaded. It sort of works in theory but to move forward it is not going to work! Electric cars and electric everything, most of the carbon reduction companies along with companies offering carbon credit are all able to prosper from the fact that we are reluctant to actually change our way of life.
Now perhaps, we are waking up
We are getting closer to the second step globally, or at least in some regions. We take steps to regulate to make laws and where possible change habits. Signs of this is visible in industries in several locations globally There are standards that help protect our environment and life as we know it. One good example is timber. All needs to be certified to travel over any country border. In some countries we have a very detailed and expanded waste management.
No one have completed this step in its entirety but some are closer than others. The regions we would suspect to be closer are the ones that really are. Nordic region is in the forefront of reducing impact of our habitation and our excessive need for things. Still even here we have a long way to go but the road is significantly shorter than in other parts of the world.
The way we live the way we consume needs to change. We need to value environment as an asset. We need to stop only measure success in money and being able to afford to buy things. The day will come when sustainability, waste management and no/low carbon emission are items on companies’ balance sheets. Either as an asset or a liability. Investors will measure these aspects as much as more traditional assets and liabilities. We are seeing some of this already in CSR, ESG and sustainable investors. Sadly, still in no, or only few, companies are this part of the core business. We are still globally at the starting point of our sustainability journey. ESG and CSR are often considered marketing and belonging to that department’s budget. We are still only at the first step to true sustainability and it is evolving in a moderate pace.
Consumers, we, are much the same. We measure the price rather than the effect or reduction of the impact a product makes on our environment. We say we care but when it matters only very few can say they do. When we say and do we have real change and we can improve from there.
It is a journey
We have not yet left the old ways behind but we are certainly preparing to leave on a journey of improvement. So even if we can be angry or upset about all the waste and pollution currently created, we can merely hope that we are not on the road to improvement to late and that we and our children can enjoy life for many generations to come.
I like to think that we have started this journey and I do all I can to get as many as possible to join. Only together can change happens. There is no benefit in telling who is not on the road to improvement. Talk about, support and celebrate those who are. That way we increase the momentum and together we will maybe reach our goals. The future is binary. I want it to be bright.