The Sceptic Tank wonders whether companies are simply making figures up
The Tank is no stranger to hyperbole. In fact, we're probably the greatest exponent for exaggeration ever to have walked the planet since the author of The NeverEnding Story. Now there's a gip, kids.
But even we were taken aback by the scale of some companies' environmental claims.
Take, for example, Italian utility Enel, which in 2009 happily reported it had emitted 122 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. As Ty Lee of WHEB Asset Management points out in an excellent blog, this is approximately four times the entire planet's production of the greenhouse gas.
But Enel is by no means alone. Swiss firm ABB managed to overstate its SOx emissions by a factor of 1,000 for seven years in a row – during which time, incidentally, it won numerous reporting awards – while in 2006 Ford managed the neat trick of simultaneously halving and doubling its water consumption.
Lee points out that sustainability reporting was still in its infancy when these glaring errors were made and the more worrying aspect is that years went by without anyone spotting them.
Clearly the lesson here is to scrutinise environmental data as closely as we do, say, financial reports. It'd be terrible if we took our eye off the ball and the whole economy came crashing down around our ears!
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The sector is facing strong headwinds from activists, investors and governments, pitting the companies' relentless growth ambitions against the worsening signs of climate change