Reporting on net zero targets: How to tell real ambition from greenwashing

We are inviting: Journalists
23 March 2023 at 16.00-17.30 CET
Import into your calendar

Net zero targets are spreading like wildfire through the corporate world. But what's behind company promises to stop climate sins? Our online workshop is designed to help journalists to assess these pledges. As part of Clean Energy Wire’s focus series on corporate climate claims, this event in collaboration with NewClimate Institute will highlight tips on how to distinguish ambition from greenwashing. Journalists who want to find out about the pitfalls of evaluating company net zero targets are invited to join us on 23 March 2023. Sign up now!

CLEW / Finley Smee, CC BY 4.0

When reporting on corporate net zero targets, drawing the line between meaningful climate commitments and hollow greenwashing can be complicated. Yet, the rapid spread of company climate commitments makes this journalistic undertaking more urgent than ever. In the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrez: “We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing.” But how can journalists best report on net zero targets? What are the shortcuts to finding out whether a company’s climate pledges are a meaningless PR exercise, or a serious commitment to decarbonisation?

Clean Energy Wire has already produced a compact guide,“How to unpick a company net zero target in 7 steps,” based on the methodology of NewClimate Institute, a global leader in assessing corporate net zero targets. In the latest edition of the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, NewClimate found that the “net zero” climate plans of 24 of the world’s largest companies – including household names such as Amazon, Apple, Google, H&M, Nestle, and Walmart – come to emissions reductions of only 36 percent. In this webinar, Frederic Hans and Sybrig Smit, co-authors of the report, will share insights from years of experience in assessing net zero targets, and in dealing with company press and sustainability departments on this issue. In addition, Taipei-based journalist Kwangyin Liu will talk about her experience of researching how the net zero targets of Apple, Google, and Microsoft could force Taiwan’s massive chipmaking industry abroad.

Journalists attending the session will learn about:

  • What approach to take when reporting on company net zero targets
  • Avoiding common pitfalls when assessing company climate targets
  • Spotting telltale signs for greenwashing in company publications
  • Asking the right questions when dealing with company press and sustainability departments




16.00 - 16.05        

Welcome and opening remarks

By Sören Amelang, Clean Energy Wire

16.05 - 16.20

How to unpick a company net zero target in 7 steps – a quick intro into our hands-on approach

By Frederic Hans, NewClimate Institute

Key points:

  • What are the key elements of net-zero targets to look out for?
  • What are some of the most prominent issues undermining climate strategies?
  • How to best navigate conflicting information across companies’ public reporting?

Followed by Q&A

16.20 - 16.50

From Amazon to Nestlé: An introduction to analysing real-world company cases, and practical tips on what to look out for

By Sybrig Smit, NewClimate Institute

Key points:

  •  Presentation of selected recent examples
  •  What are key practical tips and tricks that can help journalists?
  •  How do companies react to independent scrutiny of their climate pledges?

Followed by Q&A

16.50 - 17.10

The case of Taiwan: How net zero targets of multinational tech giants could force Taiwan's chipmakers abroad

By Kwangyin Liu, journalist

Key points:

  • presenting the topic in a way to attract most attention
  • The key role of supply chains in net zero targets
  • Dig deep on ESG and CSR reports
  • My experiences when reaching out to companies/TSMC


Followed by Q&A

17.10 - 17.25 Open debate & question time
17.25 - 17.30 Conclusion and outlook


Frederic Hans’ work focuses on tracking climate action at the national, sub-national, and corporate level. In this capacity, he is part of the core teams of the Climate Action Tracker evaluating national climate change efforts and the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor assessing companies’ climate action. Frederic was a lead author of Chapter 4 in both the UNEP Emissions Gap Reports of 2019 and 2020, and has been contributing author to all reports since 2018. Frederic has led and contributed to several projects developing frameworks on low-emission strategies, guidance documents on effective climate target setting, and quantitatively analysing greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. Frederic holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of St. Gallen and a M.A. in Comparative and International Studies from ETH Zurich with a focus on quantitative research methods and political economy.

Sybrig Smit specialises in tracking climate action and policies. She focuses on non-state and subnational climate action, including potential GHG impact assessments of climate targets set by cities, regions, companies and international initiatives, and analyses the transparency and integrity of corporate climate targets. Sybrig holds a BSc in Future Planet Studies at the University of Amsterdam, with a specialisation in Human Geography, and a MSc in Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, with a specialisation in Energy and Materials. For her Master’s thesis, she developed a refined methodology to quantify the net GHG emissions reduction impact of global non-state and subnational action.



Kwangyin Liu has covered energy transition, climate change, environment and the auto industry for the Taipei-based CommonWealth Magazine since 2012. Since 2020, she also serves as the editor of CWM’s English website. She has been covering the UNFCCC COPs since 2015, and was present at the 2015 COP21 in Paris and the 2017 COP23 in Bonn. She was an IJP Asia fellow in 2017 and she has been Clean Energy Wire's ambassador for East Asia since 2019.



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