Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon spend only 4 percent of their lobbying dollars on climate, according to Influence Map.

Everybody's going carbon neutral these days, from the big boys - Amazon, Microsoft, Unilever, Starbucks, JetBlue - to your favorite outdoor brand, even ski resorts. Probably your neighborhood coffee roaster, too.

What's not to like? Becoming carbon neutral means cutting greenhouse gas emissions as much as you can, then offsetting what you can't avoid with measures like tree-planting. Seems admirable.

Well, not exactly. Carbon neutrality doesn't achieve any sort of systemic change. A coal-powered business could be entirely carbon neutral as long as it stops some landfill gas in Malaysia from entering the atmosphere equal to the emissions it's still releasing.

American fossil fuel dependence would remain intact, and planet-warming emissions would continue to rise. The only way to fix that is through politics, policymakers and legislation. But distressingly, most businesses don't want to play in that arena.

Instead, they are doing exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants : staying in their lane, accepting some blame for a global problem and maintaining the dominance of fossil fuels. They're well intentioned, sure, but also clueless, even complicit.

Imagine if businesses put as much effort into climate lobbying as climate neutrality. Corporations wield tremendous influence over the political system. But on climate, most corporations have decided to sit this one out.

Notably, the five biggest tech corporations - Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon only spend 4 percent of their lobbying dollars on climate, according to Influence Map.

As a result, they avoid the chance to put in place systemic solutions in favor of carbon neutral navel gazing. Large corporations will protest, saying that they are lobbying on climate. But they are typically working both sides of the aisle. And their political contributions are mostly going in the wrong direction.

Bloomberg Green examined political donations by more than 100 major American corporations and found last year they were ''throwing their support behind lawmakers who routinely stall climate legislation.''

Climate never ascends to the level of mission - critical issues like trade policy and taxation. Sure, there are exceptions :

Salesforce recently said it would intensify its focus on climate lobbying. And Patagonia has always been aggressive, along with Ben and Jerry '. But they are anomalies, led and inspired by charismatic founders.

How did it come to this? The story of how what's considered the best approach to corporate sustainability became complicity with the very industry responsible for climate change starts with the famous ''Crying Indian'' commercials of the 1970s.

The ad, in which an actor portraying a Native American is devastated by the sight of rampant pollution, created generations of dutiful litter-picker-uppers. [Guilty!] But it wasn't so benign.

It was, in fact, masterly propaganda from the beverage and container industries, designed to place responsibility for the trash problems on American consumers, not manufacturers.

The approach was so good that the fossil fuel industry adopted the very same strategy.

The publishing continues to Part 2. The World Students Society thanks author Auden Schendler.


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