Welcome back to Greenwashed! 👋
Recently, we've been getting a substantial amount of subscriber growth from Europe, a trend that diverts from our largely North-American audience. This coincides with a flurry of important climate news coming out of the region, so we figured it would be a great time to focus this edition on Europe. 🇪🇺
Among other factors, the EU's regulators being amongst the world's most active has given Europe the reputation of being at the forefront of the fight against the climate crisis.
Is this true, or merely another case of the media greenwashing a more sinister reality? In this edition, we look at a string of recent stories to find the truth behind Europe's role in the climate fight. ⬇️
The Case For Europe 📈
The EU has a long history of being at the cutting edge of regulation. This is true across sectors, but especially surrounding environmental issues, such as their world-leading announcement back in 2020 that they intend to phase out gasoline cars by 2035.
They were back at it again a few weeks ago with the introduction of a strict set of rules requiring companies to substantiate and verify environmental claims used to market themselves or their products. ♻️
Labeled the "Directive on Green Claims", the announcement comes on the heels of our edition covering some of the most egregious corporate greenwashing examples, many of which came from European companies. Coincidence? I choose to believe not.
One of the biggest threats of a society with a powerful regulatory regime is a potential lack of innovation caused by an overly hawkish, bureaucratic business environment. Fortunately, Europe has managed to evade this reality.
We've covered some of the innovative climate solutions coming out of Europe in our recent editions, such as Finland's sand batteries or the UK's Leonardo-DiCaprio-backed AI recycling infrastructure. Recently, another creative solution arrived that embodies the word "sustainable" in the purest way.
In late March, Lithuanian company Viezo announced they've raised an undisclosed amount of money to scale their autonomous sensors powered entirely by vibration. 🇱🇹
The sensors lie under roads or railways and collect data that helps owners and managers predict maintenance and avoid catastrophes. The truly impressive part is that the sensors have no batteries and don't need to be charged; they power themselves in perpetuity by converting the vibrations of passing trains or cars into energy.
The Case Against Europe 📉
Europe may be innovative, but new technologies can't help society if they can't be implemented at scale.
According to a recent survey of over 12,500 European businesses, EU companies are falling behind their global peers in the adoption of new green technologies. Business leaders say one of the leading causes is skill shortages, which is corroborated by a recent Financial Times report that cites a lack of skilled labor as the main reason that Europe hasn't greened its economy more.
BCG research shows that the majority of sustainability team members have no experience in the area, and over two-thirds of team leaders were hired internally from other company roles. That isn't good enough if Europe wants to scale its sustainability efforts.
For much of modern history, Europe has been the most dominant economic and geopolitical force. They spawned the industrial revolution, orchestrated the beginning of modern globalization, and colonized literally every country in the world except four (Japan, Thailand, Korea, & Liberia). Nowadays, that dominance has largely disappeared.
The EU's recent environmental regulations on palm oil display this new dynamic perfectly. In order to curb global emissions and promote sustainable practices, the EU required producers to prove the palm oil came from land that was not deforested. 🌴
Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's largest and 2nd-largest exporters of palm oil, did not seem to care. Instead of switching business practices, they just switched buyers.
Palm oil exports to the EU fell by 22% in February, but jumped 32% and 51% to the Middle East and North Africa, respectively. Europe simply doesn't have the economic weight that it used to, which allows countries to easily skirt EU regulations. India & China, who are (not coincidentally) former European satellite states, both outspend the EU in palm oil imports.
Thanks for reading! If you've been inspired to help out in the fight against the climate crisis, start by offsetting your emissions here or by subscribing below to stay up-to-date on all of the need-to-know climate problems and solutions.
Also, we want your opinions! Does the EU hold the world's top spot in furthering the climate agenda, or are the strategies of some of the other regimes around the world a smarter way forward? Let us know in the comments or email me at email@example.com.