We must be mindful of greenwashing risks when it comes to far-off targets
The recent substantial damage that floods have caused in Pakistan is a devastating reminder that climate change remains the single most important challenge facing the planet. Research by GlobalData has revealed that the technology and telecoms sector are being ‘net-zero heroes’ by making ‘sustainability’ an operational priority. The leading data and analytics company notes that all major service providers offering services to multinational corporations (MNC), have set net-zero or carbon-neutral targets in their journey to deliver sustainability. However, GlobalData also warns that many of these targets are decades away, and there is risk of greenwashing and future washing.
Greenwashing is the tendency to use sustainability as a PR stunt rather than as a tangible corporate commitment. Futurewashing is making promises that are far enough away for the people making purported commitments still being around to be held accountable.
Robert Pritchard, Senior Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Technology and telecoms companies have made a clear commitment to delivering sustainability—it is not a ‘nice to have’ but is ‘game stakes’ for doing business. However, setting goals that are many years ahead risks ‘future washing’ or ‘green washing’. A target is well and good but having regular proof-of-progress timestamps towards these goals is the only way to provide credibility on sustainability.”
Of the global telecoms service providers studied, targets for carbon net-zero ranged from 2025 to 2050, and carbon-neutral from already achieved to 2035, underlining that achieving carbon-neutrality is the easier benchmark, and that net-zero is a more complex challenge.
Pritchard concluded: “An ESG survey by GlobalData, revealed that 43 per cent of telecoms companies and 49 per cent of technology companies considered climate change to be the most important environmental issue to their sector*. This understanding is clearly shown, as, despite economic and supply chain challenges, MNCs and their tech service providers are doing their bit to address sustainability. Further, the UN Conference of the Parties 26 (November 2021 in Scotland) and COP 27 (November 2022 in Egypt) have (and will) help boost awareness of these targets and commitments moving forward.
“Further, sustainability is being productized within these industries, and used as a differentiator in the market. It is not a choice between saving money or saving the planet—it is both. It’s a key tenet of doing business with these customers.”