Corporate climate strategy proves resistant to COVID-19

Offshore wind farm

Whilst COVID-19 is impacting business plans in many ways, corporate commitments to climate action appear remarkably resistant to disruption, according to findings from a new survey of world-leading private-sector sustainability professionals. In spite of uncertainties and challenges presented by the pandemic, 97% of respondents say their long-term sustainability strategy remains fundamentally unchanged.

Some 80% also say their company has been able to maintain its current climate actions during the crisis. However, nearly half (47%) said they still need more supportive government policies to be able to achieve their sustainability goals.

Graphic: 1 in 2 will need government support

This is according to new data released by international non-profit, The Climate Group, which surveyed the opinion of 100 of the world’s leading private sector sustainability professionals to assess the impact of COVID-19. These professionals come from some of the most ambitious global companies committed to taking actions on energy and transport emissions, including large financial institutions, retail groups and tech giants.

When asked about governments’ role in rebuilding after the worst of the pandemic, there is strong business support for green measures:

Graphic for 3 survey statistics
  • 63% of respondents said that governments’ economic stimulus packages must invest first in measures that accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy.
  • Interestingly, a similar number (59%) believe that any financial support should come with green strings attached, prioritiszing industries that cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and create green jobs.
  • Likewise, 50% said that taxpayer money should not be used for bailing out fossil-fuel companies.
  • Only 12% did not cite the need for any further government action and very few (3%) did not agree with economic stimulus packages prioritising climate.

Commenting on the positive signals, Helen Clarkson, CEO of international non-profit The Climate Group, said:

“Business commitment to tackling climate change is now incredibly robust. Companies also see it as their responsibility to build a greener, fairer future. Governments should feel confident that implementing strong climate policy and green recovery measures will be welcomed and commended by the private sector. By working together, businesses and policymakers can help to ensure economies recover from the COVID-19 crisis while also halving emissions by 2030.”

Graphic: 96% say climate change just as important post-COVID-19

Nearly all (96%) feel that climate action is just as, if not more important, to their business now compared to pre COVID-19. But while these attitudes remain steadfast, two in five (43%) also expect governments to be more interventionist to sustain corporate action on climate.

Some other upshots include predictions that business leaders will want to be more ambitious on tackling big societal issues like climate change (52%), and that stakeholders from customers to employees will want companies to do more and act faster on climate (49%). However, over half (55%) also feel that climate action might be at risk of falling down the corporate priority ladder if job creation and economic growth do take precedence.

Solar PV panels being installed

Respondents to the survey on corporate climate strategy come from businesses that are part of The Climate Group’s corporate initiatives on renewable electricity (RE100), energy productivity (EP100) and electric vehicles (EV100). Through these initiatives, more than 350 multinationals across every major sector are committed to climate action. Together, they represent over US$5.5 trillion in combined revenue, with operations in more than 140 markets and more than 16 million employees worldwide – almost double the workforce of Beijing.

The Climate Group is an international non-profit organization, founded in 2004, with offices in London, New Delhi and New York. Part of the We Mean Business coalition, its mission is to accelerate climate action to achieve a world of no more than 1.5°C of global warming and greater prosperity for all.

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