• jordancrahan

The World's Top 20 Polluters And What You Can Do About Them

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

After recent reports from the United Nations revealed that the world is collectively very far behind in its plan to combat climate change our team felt it was relevant and important to revisit a 2019 piece by Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts of The Guardian that highlights companies who could drive the most direct impact by changing the way they do business.


“Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions”


You know there is a serious problem when only 20 companies have contributed 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane emissions since 1965 and yet progress remains agonizingly slow, if not impossible in getting these companies to take serious actions to ensure the future of humanity.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that twelve of these twenty companies are state-owned, meaning that if they don’t produce profit some country somewhere is losing out on money it presumably needs for social services, public welfare, parks and recreation, defense, etc. There are a number of arguments that could rightfully be made against that premise, but the fact that the consequences of any change in a state-run organization are isolated while the benefit is global tend to make those a tough sell. That’s not to say change isn’t possible, rather that driving change in a company owned by another government is very different than trying to drive change in a publicly owned company. This is a complicated issue that could very easily turn into a report all on its own, and very well may in the future, but for now, let’s turn our attention to the eight on the list that are publicly traded.

Who are they? Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Total SA, and BHP Billiton. When they were asked about The Guardian’s findings the companies who responded gave answers that you should find unsatisfactory. You can actually read them here. The fact that so few companies are mortgaging our collective future for profits that benefit so few is not surprising but should make you extremely angry. Look at how quickly the world SLAMMED on the brakes in response to Covid-19 and compare that to the lack of urgency we’re seeing from these eight companies. Green Energy is a rapidly growing industry that has proven without argument that it can be a sustainable and profitable business to be in. Why these companies haven’t invested more aggressively in the energy infrastructure of the future is a question they probably won’t ever answer publicly, but we all know its because there is still (unfortunately) money to be made in Fossil Fuels.


  • Make sure that you aren’t investing in any of these companies passively through a 401K or IRA. You can find a list of your investments in your online account by looking at the prospectus of each investment product in your account. If you are investing you can leverage your ownership and turn it into activism by joining other shareholders in demanding change. You could also choose to divest your retirement and transfer your funds into a different investment if you wanted to.

  • Tell them you are angry. These companies have social media channels and while it may not drive them to action any faster we all should be taking any opportunity we have to tell them how pissed off we are at what they are doing.

  • Invest in green energy. There are a number of great companies out there who are working every day to bring innovative solutions to the market and bring a future of green energy closer to reality. Give them a look when you consider your next investment.

  • Reach out to your public utility. Some public utility companies have programs that allow you to specify that you want the energy you use in your home to come from green sources. Take advantage of these programs if one is available to you.

We know that each of us can only do so much but our hope is that by collectively working to educate ourselves and change the things we have control over that we can make a difference.

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