Austin Whitman, Climate Neutral's CEO, Discusses Climate Crisis-Related Greenwashing (September 27th)
Greenwashing is generally defined as a public relations or marketing practice used to deceptively persuade the public an organization is environmentally responsible. In recent related news, after an Exxon lobbyist was caught on tape admitting efforts to undermine the Biden administration's efforts to address the climate crisis, last week the House Government and Oversight Committee requested documents by Exxon and others regarding the industry’s long running campaign to spread disinformation about the climate crisis and requested Exxon and other oil companies to testify before the Oversight Committee on Oct 28th. Earlier this month NEJM published an editorial calling for emergency action to limit global temperature increases. The editorial, intentionally or not, incorrectly stated the “health institutions have already divested more than $42 billion in asses from fossil fuels.” This statistic is wildly incorrect. Per the source NEJM cites, the $42 billion figure constituted the sum total of assets held by 23 international health institutions that had pledged to divest in fossil fuels. The actual divested amount by these 23 organizations totaled $886 million total for 2018 and 2019. Today, the National Academy of Medicine announced its "Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the US Health Sector" (at: https://nam.edu/programs/climate-change-and-human-health/). There is concern the action collaborative, composed of industry executives, will result at least in part in greenwashing whereby the industry reverts to form by pledging net zero emissions by some distant year.
During this 32 minute interview Mr. Whitman begins by providing overall comments regarding greenwashing. He moves on to offer an explanation of why the healthcare industry significantly lags behind other economic sectors in reporting its carbon footprint (see the Senay and Landrigan study cited below), discusses avoided emissions as part of a net zero formula, the value of the US adopting something akin to the EU's proposed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), other solutions to counter greenwashing, i.e., what constitutes more meaningful or genuine effort and his hopes for the upcoming UN COP 26 meeting in November and the DHHS's newly-created Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE).
Mr. Austin Whitman is the CEO of Climate Neutral. Previously Mr. Whitman served as Vice President of Climate Change Capital, and as Vice President of M.J. Bradley & Associates, two leaders in climate-focused investing and asset management. In 2019, Austin started Climate Neutral, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit aiming to accelerate the decarbonization of global emissions through its achievable certification framework. The framework certifies brands who measure their carbon footprint, offset it with verified offsets, and create future reduction strategies. Mr. Whitman is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale.
Dr. Emily Senay and Philip Landrigan's 2018 JAMA-published research article, "Assessment of Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting by Large Health Care Organization," discussed during this podcast, is at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2695076.
Listeners will recall I interviewed Mr. Whitman in September 2020 about entities attaining climate neutral certification. Information on Climate Neutral is again at: https://www.climateneutral.org/.