AP7 Highlights Corporate Climate Lobbying Hypocrisy

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – At the start of December, the default Swedish public pension fund AP7 published its report on Corporate Climate Lobbying for 2017-2019. The review is the result of extensive work on climate lobbying conducted together with the Church of England and BNP Paribas. The study aims to increase awareness about the problem of negative climate lobbying and to encourage more investors and companies to engage in responsible climate lobbying.

    Negative Climate Lobbying

    According to the report, “lobbying that counteracts the Paris Agreement is a globally widespread problem”. Citing a 2015 academic study on European corporate climate lobbying by researchers at the University of Westminster’s Policy Studies Institute, AP7’s report noted the importance of consistency in companies’ commitments. According to the academic study, 61% of all companies that responded to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and 77% of the 500 largest companies in the world, use interest groups and industry organisations to influence climate policy.

    The analysis highlights the hypocrisy of the doublespeak of companies such as ExxonMobil that declare their support for the energy transition to the public while endeavouring to stimy emissions reforms. Symptomatic of the problem, ExxonMobil has gone as far as opposing shareholder measures raised by AP7 to disclose “the direct and indirect lobbying activities via interest organisations of which ExxonMobil is a member.” When AP7 introduced resolutions calling for ExxonMobil to adopt quantitative goals to reduce its emissions the company opposed them and recommended that the general meeting oppose them, which is what happened.

    Further to this, the report also singles out the fact that “on its website, Exxon declares that the company supports a transition to energy systems with low carbon dioxide emissions. Despite this, the company has not distanced itself from organisations that deny climate change, and has not withdrawn from business organisations that oppose climate regulations.” Putting together all these elements, AP7 decided to blacklist ExxonMobil.

    According to AP7, ExxonMobil stands in contrast to a company such as Australian mining company BHP, which “published an exemplary report on its positions and participation in interest organisations. The report showed that BHP and the interest organisation Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) took different positions regarding the climate, which resulted in MCA updating its policy and position in 2018.”

    Encouraging Engagement

    Lobbying is a challenge and opportunity according to Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics and Engagement, Church of England Pensions Board. “The joint initiative we launched in 2018, to which we were also happy to welcome BNP Paribas Asset Management, is intended to join the dots between the statements of support that companies have made for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the lobbying that occurs with their support,” Matthews adds.

    The report also highlights companies that have gone out of the way to be leaders on the issue of climate. Apple left the US Chamber of Commerce in 2009 because unlike the US Chamber of Commerce, it argued that greenhouse gas emissions should be regulated. Another outstanding company, according to AP7’s report is Unilever, which “was among the first global groups to support and take action in accordance with Global Compact’s Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy when it was adopted in 2013”. In 2014, Unilver also left Business Europe, due to the industry association’s opposition to emission limits in the EU.

    In an interview with Tim Smith, one of the founders of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), included in the report also highlighted the important reactionary opposition of the reform efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). “ALEC is a very conservative, right-wing group with terrible positions on everything from climate change to opening up the country too early in response to Covid-19,” Smith says. He adds that this leaves room for American companies like Coca Cola, Walmart, Pepsi, and General Motors to do more as members of this organisation.

    AP7 argues that collaboration, through pro-reform organisations, networks, and NGOs, is crucial. It cites the following examples of collaboration constellations and knowledge partners that contribute to AP7’s work on corporate climate lobbying: Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), Climate Action 100+, InfluenceMap, the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), Share Action, Client Earth, Ceres, Aiming for A and the CDP.

    “As shareholders, we expect that when companies engage with public policy makers, they will support cost-effective policy measures to mitigate climate change risks and support an orderly transition to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 at the latest,” Helena Viñes Fiestas, Deputy Global Head of Sustainability and  Global Head of Stewardship and Policy at BNP Paribas Asset Management is cited as saying in the report.

    Image courtesy of AP7

    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe is an economist with 8 years of experience in macroeconomic and financial analysis for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UN World Institute for Development Economic Research, the Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Filipe holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE and a MSc in Economics from the University of London, where he currently is a PhD candidate.

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