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Companies are Cashing in on Climate Anxiety with False Marketing – Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Who didn’t see this coming?

Capitalising on climate anxiety: what you need to know about ‘climate-washing’

Published: April 3, 2023 6.03am AEST
Laura Schuijers
Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law and Lecturer in Law, University of Sydney

People are increasingly making choices about which products to buy and which service providers to use on climate change grounds. With concerns about climate change now affecting most Australians, businesses that promote climate-aligned practices and make emissions-reduction promises have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

But sometimes these claims fail to live up to reality. Climate-related greenwashing, or “climate-washing”, communicates a message that exaggerates or misrepresents climate credentials through advertising, branding, labelling or reporting. 

Examples include where corporate marketing and government campaigns promising “net-zero emissions by 2050” are not backed by a credible plan. Or products are promoted as “carbon neutral” or “climate friendly” when they’re not. It also includes where banks and other investors claim to fund a “cleaner future” when this is not completely true, potentially masking climate-related financial risk.

Climate-washing is a problem because the offending businesses capitalise on climate anxiety. It also allows businesses lacking robust credentials to gain customers and market advantage on false pretences. Ultimately, it also hinders rather than helps progress towards emissions reduction goals.

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The first people on Laura Schuijers’ list should be companies offering carbon credits.

Back in February WUWT reported on a Four Corners expose about practices they called “Carbon Colonialism”, allegations a major carbon credit business was exploiting and ripping off native owners of tropical forests with sharp business practices, and producing carbon credits from a “pristine” forest subject to industrial scale logging, while selling those allegedly dubious carbon credits for millions of dollars to big businesses in Australia and elsewhere. Four corners also alleges the CEO of the carbon credit business NIHT was once sued by the US SEC for defrauding investors.

As far as I know, nothing happened after the Four Corners expose. Normally when Four Corners accuses a business of questionable practices, charges are laid, or at the very least the targeted party lays low for a while. But not in this case. NIHT is carrying on like nothing happened, you can still buy their carbon credits online for $18.00 / ton.

Where are the big climate activist protests, the mass demands these alleged carbon fraudsters and neo-colonialist exploiters of indigenous people be shut down? Where are the Aussie government investigations into alleged sharp practices which undermine the integrity of their plan to save the world with carbon credits?

Why are most climate activists so uninterested in carbon credit scandals, or false claims products are low carbon?

I believe the answer is most people don’t want to know. Carbon credits and purchases of low carbon products aren’t about saving the planet, they’re about virtue signalling, showing the world the purchaser is a good person, or a good company director.

Someone who offers low cost carbon credits from dubious sources, or falsely markets their product as climate friendly, is offering virtue signallers a money saving opportunity. Cut price virtue signalling.

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