Microsoft, Brooks, Unilever, and others join Amazon's climate change pledge

Critics aren't buying it.

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Multiple companies including Microsoft, Brooks, and Unilever are joining Amazon in a collective pledge to be a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years sooner than the 2050 target of the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. exited under the Trump Administration but is expected to rejoin after Biden's inauguration in January.

In a press release published on Wednesday, it was announced Microsoft and a dozen other major firms signed on to what's been dubbed The Climate Pledge. The other signatories include Atos, Brooks, Canary Wharf Group, Coca-Cola European Partners, ERM, Groupe SEB France, Harbour Air, ITV, Neste, Rubicon, Unilever, and Vaude.

Critics, as you can imagine, remain skeptical that this is much more than lip service. Because without mandated targets and potential punitive measures, companies have limited motivation to hit bold targets, no matter how good they sound when they're announced. The public-facing statement also seems to contradict Amazon's record on green matters. The online retailer gained notoriety for reportedly threatening to fire climate change-concerned employees.

"Last year, Amazon and Global Optimism co-founded The Climate Pledge to encourage companies to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early. Today, we have exciting news: 13 more companies, including Unilever and Microsoft, are joining this commitment to confront climate change together and save the planet for future generations," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said.

"There are now 31 companies from around the world that have signed The Climate Pledge, and collectively we are sending an important signal to the market that there is significant and rapidly growing demand for technologies that can help us build a zero-carbon economy," he added.

The details of what they're agreeing to — The entities signing the pledge have to commit to choosing "real, science-based, high-impact actions to tackle climate change, including deploying renewable energy, investing in sustainable buildings, and mobilizing supply chains."

The companies claim that their participation in the pledge means they will run tests and measure the amount of their gas emissions on a "regular basis" and eventually neutralize their emissions to reach net-zero annual yield over the next two decades. They also claim that they will decarbonize their various manufacturing processes, which is one of the stipulations of the Paris Agreement.

The critics' concerns — In theory, this all sounds optimistic and encouraging that these major companies are attempting to get serious about how their activities affect the planet. But critics have already shaken their heads at the pledge and have noted, for example, how little transparency it offers. According to The Washington Post, a chief complaint from skeptics is that The Climate Pledge itself doesn't state clearly what emissions these companies have to test and report on.

Without concrete guidelines, these companies essentially can report what they choose to — and leave out the critical details surrounding their main operations. They're also not beholden to any third parties for oversight. It sounds great on paper, but we'll wait to see it in practice before we break out the champagne.