Big Tech and Climate Policy
Are the Technology Giants Deploying Political Capital on Climate Change?
The five Big Tech companies (Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook & Microsoft) account for more than 25% of the value of the S&P500 and 20% of its Q3 2020 profits. They have grown tremendously during the COVID pandemic, with Amazon alone adding almost half a million jobs in a "hiring spree without equal" . With this unprecedented concentration of economic and financial power comes the ability to influence government policy.
This report shows that despite robust top-line climate commitments from Big Tech, they are not strategically deploying their significant influence over government policy in support of much needed climate policy. Furthermore, all remain members of powerful cross-sector groups – including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, BusinessEurope and the Japan Business Federation - all of which continue to lobby against binding measures necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
While the five Big Tech companies are all highly positive on their own climate programs - in terms of minimizing the emissions of their operations, supply chains, and products - their climate policy engagement appears ad hoc. It has focused on technical rules to enable corporate renewable energy procurement that are directly associated with their operations/commitments. Their lobbying contrasts with the strategic engagement of climate policy leaders like Unilever, which advocates on a range of policies globally with a clear goal of shifting governments to act more ambitiously towards the Paris goal of 1.5C. It also contrasts with the oil majors like ExxonMobil which likewise engage strategically, but negatively, to delay or block Paris-aligned climate policy measures around the world.
This research shows that the Big Tech companies do not appear to be matching their huge economic footprint with corresponding strategic support for strong government action to implement the Paris Agreement. This represents a lost opportunity for corporate leadership on climate policy. It is compounded by their continued silence on the negative climate lobbying undertaken by the powerful cross-sector industry groups that represent them, like the US Chamber of Commerce and BusinessEurope.
It is therefore possible, based on publicly available information, that Big Tech’s positive but limited engagement is being negated by the negative impact of these trade groups. That is, Big Tech could potentially be having a ‘net zero’ influence over climate policy. Governments globally require a clear signal from the business sector that climate regulations are needed and will be welcomed. At present that signal from Big Tech is not clear. The companies support long-term, top-line climate goals and some isolated energy regulations, but the powerful lobby groups they belong to largely oppose any immediate binding measures on climate. Reform of this disconnect is needed urgently to encourage policymakers to act.
All five tech companies were contacted by InfluenceMap and shown the results of the analysis of their lobbying, prior to publication.
Big Tech companies are some of the most powerful businesses in the world. They make things happen – when they want things to happen. This report shows how Big Tech has refused to lift a finger to push comprehensive climate action in Congress. That may soon change, and the best place to start is ensuring that Big Tech’s trade associations are powerful advocates for ambitious climate action.
This report provides clear, convincing proof points that despite their pro-climate philosophy, Big Tech is not advocating for the bold climate policy we need. We are calling on the Big Five to step up their lobbying, and use their enormous influence, to meet this moment. Because right now they are missing it.
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