Climate Pledge ads make a case CEOs have ignored for years


First, it’s a culturally various group of British faculty youngsters. Then a farm woman with braces. Subsequent, a Scandinavian mannequin, a trendy Italian hypebeast, and a Stranger Issues-like gaggle of center schoolers biking by way of a junkyard. Should you had it on mute, it might be an advert for the Hole or Levi’s jeans. However this assortment of central casting children are literally sending a message to world CEOs on behalf of Amazon’s Climate Pledge.

The youngsters are addressing the planet’s company leaders, pitching them on the frequent sense behind issues like wind and photo voltaic vitality, sustainable farming, and extra native provide chains. An cute 6-year-old delivers the required Kevin McCallister-style line, “I’m solely 6. You work it out,” after which two younger ladies wading in a flooded metropolis avenue drop the guilt-trip normal, “that is your likelihood to do one thing good.” It’s a handsome spot that’s remarkably mild on substance. In spite of everything, this isn’t breaking information; These are all measures that world leaders have completely identified about for a long time, and simply haven’t acted on.

The Climate Pledge was introduced by Amazon’s then-CEO Jeff Bezos in September 2019. It asks signatories to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and conform to measure, cut back, and offset carbon emissions. The pledge isn’t legally binding, and there’s no penalty for not assembly its requirements. Since launch, 108 corporations have signed on, together with Microsoft, Unilever, IBM, JetBlue, Mercedes-Benz, Finest Purchase, Uber, and Verizon. Notable absences embody Amazon rivals like Apple and Google, who have made local weather commitments of their very own in the previous few years.


Jennifer Rushlow, affiliate dean of environmental applications at Vermont Regulation Faculty, says the advert seems to be positioning Amazon and the Climate Pledge as listening to younger folks, valuing their contributions, and taking their recommendation. “Upcoming generations are skeptical of company America, frightened that it’s destroying the atmosphere and human rights,” she says. “This advert seems like it’s attempting to enchantment to younger folks by acknowledging their considerations for their future, as reassurance that Amazon and different signatories are doing their half to make issues proper, and subsequently, purchase stuff from us and never the opposite man.”

If this advert lacks substance, it’s an correct reflection of the pledge itself, which has been known as little greater than a “branding exercise.” Bezos conveniently introduced the Climate Pledge simply as Amazon workers have been planning a walkout over what they thought of the corporate’s insufficient environmental duty.

Jamie Henn, founding father of nonprofit media lab Fossil Free Media, says that whereas a credible plan to get to web zero emissions is a huge deal, he sees a few of these pledges as little greater than a PR stunt. “I fear that the supposed audiences for these ads are principally different CEOs that Amazon needs to impress or politicians who they fear may begin holding them accountable,” says Henn, who beforehand labored on the local weather nonprofit “There’s a Davos-esque high quality to those ads: they current as edgy, however I didn’t hear something concrete. If Amazon was in D.C. lobbying Congress to move each local weather provision within the American Jobs Plan, I’d be extra impressed. However from what I can inform, their govt chairman has been spending extra time in outer house than contained in the beltway.”

This critique is underscored by the conduct of the pledge’s very signatories. Advert company holding firm Interpublic Group of Firms (IPG) is on the checklist, but nonetheless counts ExxonMobil as a client. Amazon itself noticed its carbon emissions rise by 19% in 2020. Rushlow says it will likely be vital to deal with the small print of this pledge, particular decarbonization methods, and the way they’re working, “so shoppers are supporting corporations making actual change, not greenwashing.”

As for the advert itself, utilizing youngsters is a acquainted local weather trope, aiming to guilt folks into altering their conduct in an effort to save future generations. We’ve had kids explaining climate change to us for Earth Hour. Mothers taking on the revolutionary act of voting to save lots of their little one’s future. And Apple’s whisper-quiet climate change promise to a sleeping baby.

“The ads are undoubtedly slick, however I’d have most well-liked to see some CEOs speaking about how they’ll get their companies to zero emissions, reasonably than younger folks getting used as props,” says Henn. “We don’t actually need companies to inform us that younger folks need local weather motion—youth have been marching within the streets for years. What we want is for companies to start out performing themselves.”