What Happens When You Email the Companies That Are Responsible for 71% of All Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Published on September 28, 2017 (↻ June 2, 2021), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

A few months ago I ran into the post, Just 100 Companies Are Responsible for 71pc of Greenhouse Gases Since 1988, Report Finds, referring to the Telegraph’s article of the same name, in turn referring to data from the Carbon Disclosure Project.

I realized that the data may have been inaccurate and incomplete but also—and much more importantly—that it presented an avenue for us to actually do something, no matter how small, to effect change than to just beg the biggest climate polluter countries to leave ink pen marks on bleached paper. I felt that if anything, there were only gains to be made by simply, politely emailing those companies. And so I started “Operation Blue Umbrella,” following my personal email initiative to ask German and European MPs for more trust and more rights in what I had personally dubbed “Operation Butterfly” (don’t ask, I run a number of “operations,” and I don’t spend much time on their naming).

Blue Umbrella started with a spreadsheet and ended with sending 274 emails—I actually contacted 96 of 99 of the companies responsible for those 71% of greenhouse emissions (one company, Indika Energy, was a duplicate for they had merged, and for two others, North Korea Coal and Turkmennebit, I couldn’t find any contact data).

The content? I’ll only share a snippet: “Could you please, on your own initiative, commit to drastically reducing emissions? (An idea, like to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by 10% each year?)”

Here’s the result.

Corporations Mails and feedback forms sent of which bounced or got a response (from total number of corporations)
96 274 61 2

The first thing to notice is probably the high bounce rate—as I haven’t inspected these numbers my hunch is that half of the bounces are due to email addresses I had to guess (sometimes complementarily, that is, it’s not that the company in question received no mail at all), and the other half due to addresses that indeed don’t work anymore. (The Web of oil companies is a little adventure to explore anyway I must add, beginning with an often low quality of their websites, touching governmental agencies and countries whose Webs we may never even pass through at all, and ending with sometimes particular contents, from pithy work right notices to scam warnings.)

But the other thing is certainly the low response rate: Only two (2) of the companies replied. (Which ones? Suncor and RWE.)

What did they reply? Suncor used the response to point to their carbon disclosure report (PDF, 1.1 MB) and their work to “find new ways to extract and produce oil and bitumen while minimizing our carbon footprint.” RWE “highly appreciates the outcome of the COP 21” and pointed to the statement by CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz that “by 2030, we will cut the CO2 emissions of our current portfolio of power stations in all countries by 55 million to 65 million metric tons compared to 2015 levels.”

Not much more was said.

Perhaps the problem was again that I didn’t ask many questions, I rather made assertions and suggestions. And I’d find myself in the same situation as before, that perhaps I went about the case here in an odd fashion, as the true point was once more a different one:

When we are troubled by something or someone, we should talk to the people who are responsible for those troubles, and later to others who could effect change. (I’ve rarely understood why people would complain to who’s entirely removed from a matter that bothers them.)

Perhaps I didn’t get to email the people who’re truly responsible here; and what they do with my requests, I don’t know, either.

But the point is that reaching out is one of the few options we have at our disposal; and if even one small thing changes and improves, it may be a success. And as such I believe more people should reach out. Instead of waiting for politicians or law enforcement to act, let’s act ourselves, let’s make ourselves heard. Constructive action never hurts.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On October 6, 2017, 20:44 CEST, Frank Topel said:

    I appreciate your efforts to find ways we can engage. I really do!

    Nonetheless the results you report upon, both the “carbon companies” and your reach-out to the EU parliament members and the members of the German Bundestag, are more than discouraging, which is why I disagree with your conclusion.

    Far more than 95% of your attempts to reach out most probably ended somewhere in the digital nirvana! If anything, your attempts show one: These e-mail addresses are mostly nothing more than placebos, or device:null for public feedback.

    As sad as it is, how can you still draw a positive conclusion with that low of a response rate?

    Cheers from Wetter (Ruhr) which happens to be close to Dortmund, Germany. Frank

  2. On October 7, 2017, 14:29 CEST, Visitor said:

    When I saw the original article about the 100 top polluters I noticed a Canadian company. Since I am Canadian I emailed the company asking similar questions about their plans to reduce their climate impact.

    After not hearing back for a while, I then contacted a few Canadian media companies to see if they are interested in covering this story. (Reporters are more likely to get a response from a company.)

    The next step for you Jens (and I hope everyone reading) is to contact local media agencies to raise more awareness. For example, ConocoPhillips is located in Houston, Texas so Houston media organizations may be interested in the fact that a local company is polluting so much…