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LONDON – New global research from climate consultants South Pole found that one in four global companies with science-based targets will not be publicising them. The report surveyed over 1,200 large companies with net zero targets across 12 different countries and multiple sectors, including fashion. Alongside net zero targets, nearly all have either set science-based emission reduction targets or plan to in the next year.

South Pole found companies are primarily driven to set net zero targets because of “consumer demand for low-carbon goods and services,” as well as the opportunity to show brand leadership. However, this year’s report reveals that, while some companies are setting science-based net zero targets for these reasons, a significant portion will not be publicising them.

Last year, in the run up COP26, hundreds of companies across the world set net zero targets and publicised them with high-profile campaigns. South Pole’s findings confirm that companies are continuing to set net zero targets at pace with increasing budgets to support them. Yet just one year later, ahead of COP27, this growing reluctance to publicise science-aligned climate targets raises questions around why some companies do not want to make their goals widely known.

“We see that businesses are increasingly backing up their targets with science-based emissions reductions milestones, which is absolutely the right approach. But if a quarter today aren’t coming forward with details on what makes their target credible, could corporate green-hushing be spreading?,” said Renat Heuberger, CEO and co-founder of South Pole.

South Pole claims that media scrutiny, NGO media scrutiny and the threat of lawsuits may be deterring companies who are voluntarily setting targets from being more open.

Heuberger adds: “Our 2022 Net Zero report finds an emerging contradiction between companies’ ambition staying high, but their voices going quiet. This is concerning, as we need businesses across the world to be speaking openly about what’s behind their net zero targets. Goal setting alone is not enough, especially when there are still so many businesses out there who are yet to set company targets – ideally ones that are aligned with science.”

South Pole’s report reveals that, while businesses might be forgoing the communication of their targets, they are forging ahead with their delivery. Three-quarters of companies surveyed have increased their net zero budgets since December 2021. And many are also increasing their in-house capacity by hiring new staff and upskilling their sustainability teams rather than using external consultants.

One in three companies surveyed said achieving their targets is proving “more difficult” than expected and for those who admit to not being “on track”, they plan to scale up their efforts “significantly” this year.

Even among the self-identified heavy emitters – 76 per cent of whom had science-aligned net zero targets – nearly a quarter have decided not to publicise their milestones beyond what is mandated.

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