This article examines major oil companies in terms of climate strategies and their implementation. More specifıcally, it takes a critical look at Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil, and the relationship between rhetoric and action regarding investments in climate-friendly activities. Empirical evidence indicates a generally high degree of consistency between what these companies say and what they do, but interesting differences are also found: ExxonMobil has done somewhat more than its climate strategy formulations would suggest; Shell has done somewhat less; whereas BP's activities are mainly in line with its statements. Factors at three levels contribute to explaining these differences: (1) the company level, 2) the political framework conditions in the various regions where the companies operate, 3) international climate cooperation. The fındings and explanations, although restricted to the three oil companies with regard to climate change, provide insight into the relationship between corporate strategies and implementation more generally. They offer understanding and analytical categories for assessing how well and why such multinational entities put into practice stated objectives.

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Author notes

Ingvild Andreassen Sæverud worked as research fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway from 2004 to 2006. Her main research interests are climate and energy policy. Sæverud now works as an adviser on climate policy in the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment, and has previously worked with the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy

Jon Birger Skjærseth is Senior Research Fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute and visiting researcher at the Bren School, University of California, Santa Barbara. His research interests are international environmental cooperation, EU environmental policy, national environmental policy and the strategies of non-state actors, particularly multinational companies. He has published numerous books and articles in these fıelds, such as the following books: Climate Change and the Oil Industry—Common Problem, Varying Strategies (2003, with Tora Skodvin); International Regimes and Norway's Environmental Policy— Crossfıre and Coherence (2004); EU Emissions Trading—Initiation, Decision-making and Implementation (forthcoming 2007, with Jørgen Wettestad).