Big Tech and Climate Policy
Are the Technology Giants Deploying Political Capital on Climate Change?
The following is an update of InfluenceMap's January, 2021 report on Big Tech and Climate Policy.
InfluenceMap’s January 2021 Big Tech and Climate Policy report analyzed the five Big Tech companies – Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook – for their engagement with climate policy. It found that while Big Tech holds positive positions on climate policy, its support is not backed up by strategic advocacy. In addition, the companies’ direct influence is overshadowed by the highly strategic and anti-climate advocacy of their industry associations in the US and abroad.
The September 2021 update analyzes Big Tech’s climate policy influence since January 2021. Following the inauguration of a new, climate-focused administration in the US, alongside new warnings from the IPCC and IEA on the need for drastic climate action, one might expect to see an increase in US corporate climate policy engagement. This does not appear to be the case among Big Tech companies, whose collective climate advocacy has fallen since the start of the new year.
Three of the five Big Tech companies have lower Engagement Intensity scores than reported in InfluenceMap’s January 2021 report. InfluenceMap’s Engagement Intensity metric captures the full picture of a company’s engagement with climate policy, including top-line communications as well as detailed lobbying on specific legislation. Conversely, Big Oil’s overall Engagement Intensity has collectively increased since the start of the new year.
On federal legislation in particular, this report finds that an average of only 6% of Big Tech’s lobbying between Q3 2020 and Q2 2021 is related to climate, roughly the same as the figures reported in InfluenceMap’s January 2021 report, which analyzed data from Q1 2019 to Q2 2020.
Using the same “climate relevance” methodology, this report finds that over 50% (on average) of Big Oil’s reported legislative lobbying between Q3 2020 and Q2 2021 is on climate policy, a significant increase from 38% between Q1 2019 to Q2 2020. All five Big Oil companies lobbied on bills such as the CLEAN Future Act, where all five Big Tech companies were absent.
Big Tech’s direct engagement with climate policy pales in comparison to the activity of its cross-sector industry associations, which continue to oppose ambitious climate policy in the US. Industry groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and Business Roundtable appear to be playing a leading role opposing the US budget reconciliation plan, among other recent cases of climate policy advocacy.
Apple and Microsoft are performing better than their peers on climate policy advocacy. While Apple’s Engagement Intensity is lower than that achieved by other corporate leaders in climate policy engagement, the company is the only one among the five to have left the US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) over its climate positions in 2009. Microsoft appears marginally more engaged than Apple but retains close links to the Chamber and National Association of Manufacturers without clearly distancing itself from either group.
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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