08 Sep 2022, 12:36
  • Sven
    Sven Egenter heads the Clean Energy Wire as Editor in Chief and Executive Director.
  • Sören
    Sören Amelang is a staff correspondent and coordinates the CLEW focus project on company climate claims.

The backstory: The CLEW focus project on company climate claims

Cartoon by CLEW / Mwelwa Musonko CC BY 4.0
Supermarket shelves are awash with products claiming to be "climate neutral", and one company after the next is signing up to a "net zero" target. But how watertight are these corporate climate claims? For us as journalists but also for consumers, the issue is highly relevant and very difficult: Existing climate labels and "net zero" targets are largely unregulated, their terminology is confusing, the necessary carbon accounting is complicated, and the true climate impact of making up for continued emissions with carbon offsets often questionable. Now, we tackle these issues in a collaborative project involving our own research, commissions from our journalism network, grants open to all journalists, and webinars.

As countries are racing to meet their climate pledges, scrutiny is mounting on every strand of the economy, and corporate climate accountability is firmly on the agenda. Many companies have started to make climate action part of their corporate strategy - and their advertising. When we started to take a closer look at the avalanche of corporate climate claims, we quickly realised that this far-ranging topic requires research from many angles. So we decided to take a new approach: A collaborative open newsroom project, both within our entire team and beyond.

In upcoming months, our editorial team will focus on unpacking the meaning, impact, and future of corporate climate claims. But we will also support and collaborate with other journalists to shed light on this issue. From our global network of energy & climate journalists, we are commissioning articles on the rise of net-zero corporate targets in particular countries or specific sectors. We also offer grants for collaborative cross-border reporting on the topic that will cover international aspects and are open to all journalists. This page provides more details on how to get involved.

Additionally, our events team will host webinars for journalists keen to learn more about how to assess company net zero targets, and the links between climate claims and sustainable finance.

Our editorial team will tackle the following questions, among others:

  • How trustworthy are “climate neutral” product claims and companies' net zero targets? How can journalists and consumers best scrutinise them?
  • Are company climate claims harmful greenwashing that distracts from urgent emission cuts? Or are they a sign of hope, indicating companies are taking responsibility for their climate impact? 
  • When can we finally buy truly climate neutral trainers or cosmetics?
  • Which regulations are in the works to make corporate climate claims more reliable?
  • Are the right mechanisms in place to ensure that pioneering companies that are serious about emission cuts are rewarded by the financial markets?
  • Can companies be held responsible for their climate claims in court?

You can find a more detailed overview of our content plans here. This CLEW focus project is the first of its kind, but we hope to explore other topics in a similar fashion in the future.

We would like to hear your ideas and thoughts, too. Are we missing a crucial aspect? Do you have any research tips? Or are you a journalist in need of support with your own reporting on company claims? Just write to us at focus@cleanenergywire.org.

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