by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Solomon203/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 4.0

THE GREEN CITIZEN ACTION ALLIANCE (GCAA) held a press conference earlier this month aiming to call attention to “greenwashing” in Taiwan.

In particular, the GCAA evaluated four major environmental awards, including the Taiwan Corporate Sustainability Award (TCSA), Global View’s ESG Award, Commonwealth Magazine’s ESG Award, and government-run National Sustainable Development Award (NSDA). These awards were criticized as lacking open, transparent, and comprehensive standards on environmental protection and handing out awards to corporations that were, in fact, polluters.

For example, it was raised that 12 out of 64 winners of the TCSA had been fined for violations in the past. Particular ire was directed at that the major petroleum, natural gas, and gasoline company in Taiwan, the state-owned CPC Corporation, was a winner of the TCSA. Indeed, the GCAA and other environmental groups pointed to 8.662 million NT in fines faced by the CPC Corporation in past years for 42 violations. Sometimes, CPC misreported violations, by claiming that multiple fines imposed on one day were a single fine, to improve its standing for awards.

According to the GCAA, as many as 60% of companies that win awards have been implicated in violations in the past. Out of 38 companies listed by the Ministry of the Environment as major carbon emitters, reportedly 36 will win awards from the TCSA.

Consequently, a factor in “greenwashing” proves the failure of awards to base their criteria on internationally recognized standards. Likewise, companies misreport statistics or otherwise fail to disclose data in order to look better. When awards are handed out easily to polluters, this allows companies to disguise poor records. Such awards sometimes highlight one feature of actions by a company even when the company’s overall actions are environmentally destructive and take compliance with the law as not the bare minimum for qualifying for awards, but as in itself praiseworthy.

Photo credit: Foxy Who \(^∀^)/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 3.0

As such, the government was called on to be more proactive in terms of its own awards system, seeing as government bureaus are the competent authorities for pollution. Though the Ministry of the Environment and Financial Supervisory Commission have launched anti-greenwashing measures, it is to be seen if this will be enough.

To this extent, the government’s NSDA, which is run under the Executive Yuan, was criticized for handing out awards to companies in the semiconductor industry whose targets for reducing carbon emissions by 2030 aim to do less than the government’s own goals. This illustrates a way in which the government has failed to push companies to meet the sustainability goals that it itself has set.

Indeed, much of the pressure on the semiconductor industry has been from external pressures set by major suppliers such as Apple for green supply chains. Yet it is to be seen whether electronics giants in Taiwan genuinely embrace energy transition or simply seek to do so in a way to placate Apple and other major industry players.

But in this vein, much of the pressure on Taiwan for energy transition ends up being top-down in this way, whether from major industry players external to Taiwan or from the government. As of yet, while civil society groups seek to call industry actors to account, this has not been a major refrain from the public at large–there is comparatively more discussion of energy infrastructure in Taiwan, such as regarding nuclear energy, wind farms, and solar farms. Likewise, in recent times, the KMT has increasingly taken aim at the idea of renewable energy as a whole, suggesting that DPP governments only push for green energy because of illicit links to green energy companies.

That such political attacks occur in Taiwan and can have traction reflects the way in which Taiwan is often disconnected from international discourse regarding energy transition. This occurs despite the visible impact in Taiwan from air pollution

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