Gold Standard, WWF, and EDF Talk Greenwashing and Credible Climate Strategies at Climate Week NYC

By Alex Bowman, ODP Contributing Writer

At the Climate Week NYC event Beyond Net Zero: Credible, Ambitious Climate Strategies, experts from Gold Standard, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), spoke about how companies can best mitigate the damages they might inflict on the environment. The speakers defined the concept of “net zero,” and raised the question: what does a company or organization being “net zero” actually mean? In many cases, it’s not actually true.


Why This Matters: Many brands aggressively market themselves as environmentally conscious but don’t actually walk the talk. Since the late 1980’s, this form of false advertising has been referred to as “greenwashing,” but with increasing net-zero commitments comes “greenwishing,” described as “lacking concrete plans or…postponing short term climate action.” As the NewClimate Institute and the Data-Driven EnviroLab reported in October 2020, organizations’ “net-zero commitments” vary enormously in their metrics, transparency, and related factors, and “net zero” is often used to describe an organization’s ideals or aspirations, rather than the actual day-to-day impacts of their activity. Without credible climate strategies to back up their claims, the public can’t be sure that companies are really doing their part.


Walk the Talk

The presenters included Owen Hewlett, the Chief Technical Officer of Gold Standard; Brad Schallert, the Director of Carbon Market Governance and Aviation at WWF; and Kelley Kizzier, the Vice President of Global Climate at EDF. They emphasized the Climate Mitigation Hierarchy as a means of encouraging transparency and action towards achieving net-zero emissions. Through this framework, organizations must:

  • Track and disclose their emissions
  • Reduce emissions using science-based targets
  • Quantify their financial commitment by pricing their remaining emissions
  • Invest financial commitment in further climate action

During this process, they must also work to influence positive climate policy both within and outside their own sector, collaborate with stakeholders, and build climate resilience.


The event speakers also discussed Gold Standard’s Value Change Initiative, which “co-creates best-practice guidance, tools, and implementation trajectories alongside recognized standards, civil society, and leading corporate actors.” In an effort to support companies to make their “net-zero” goals a reality, the initiative seeks to make an impact by allowing companies to credibly quantify, verify, allocate, and make claims about impacts realized in their value chains. So far, the project has over 130 technical experts and partners, 60 organizations who have agreed to participate, 18 pilots, and three working groups.

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