The time when companies could obfuscate their real environmental impact is over - soon they will all be revealed.
Norwegians are used to trusting each other. We take it for granted that people mean what they say, that verbal agreements are agreements. When you lose your wallet, you assume that you have lost it on the road, not that someone has lifted it out of your pocket. You assume that someone has already delivered it to the nearest police station. There is no real rush to collect it.
We benefit from having this trust in each other. You take it for granted that one liter of milk contains 1 liter of milk and exactly the 420 calories stated on the carton. If the supplier is dishonestly inclined, you still trust that some government agency will keep them in line. Control at all stages. Transparency. Trust.
The implicit trust we have in each other has many positive effects, but works against its purpose in the fight for a greener environment. Out of trust, we believe in each other, and out of faith in the good, we let companies that hide behind unclear CO2 accounting go in peace. Today, it is far too difficult to compare the good companies with the bad ones, the result being that everything can be green-washed. For a long time, we have accepted intention as good enough when companies tell what they do for the climate.
Stories without substance
Empty words and phrases about sustainability appear in every ad. We give the poultry producers "cred" for the experiment when they say that they want to replace the long-distance soy-based animal feed with short-distance local animal feed. It sounds good, but as consumers it is difficult to compare this initiative with the measure from another producer who heat their greenhouses with renewable energy.
The data exists, but must be interpreted
What needs to happen? Quite simply, we must track down, interpret, and compare the data.
Today, we have access to enormous amounts of data on the carbon footprint in all parts of the value chain. What we have so far lacked are the tools that put these data points together into comprehensible and comparable accounts. I can comfort the reader that this situation is about to change. Carbon accounting will make it possible to separate the bad climate measures from the good ones, and help companies and consumers make the choices they want.
Is your company equipped when you must write on the product packaging exactly how many CO2 equivalents it contains?
Consumers want to know the exact climate footprint of the products they buy. Investment capital wants to be able to identify the companies that are equipped to compete when the climate footprint becomes a public figure. All we need now is for the authorities to reward the sustainable companies by ordering everyone to publish their real climate accounts. Trust is all well and good, but facts is better.
This Chronicle was published in The Financial Daily (Finansavisen) 1st April 2022.
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