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Research Report

Want business growth tomorrow? Act on climate today.

5-minute read

In brief

  • The world is drastically behind where it needs to be to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but top CEOs are embracing sustainability as both a competitive differentiator and a promising business model.
  • The vast majority (92%) of CEOs believe the world will be able to achieve the SDGs by 2030—but just as many want to see more government support in achieving long-term sustainability targets.

Business must put us on a pathway to a better, more resilient future

Today's executives are managing through geopolitical tensions, a global pandemic, talent scarcity, frequent cyberattacks and, on top of all that, a climate emergency. That's according to 2,600+ CEOs from 128 countries and 18 industries, as shared in the 12th United Nations Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study.

  • And alongside a growing loss of confidence in governments and public institutions, people are counting on CEOs to be social leaders. The good news? Many CEOs are ready to act.

Sustainability is a climate imperative. It's also a foundation for growth.

Sustainability is clearly at the top of the CEO agenda, as it protects companies across industries against the rising tide of uncertainty. And while we've seen Chief Sustainability Officers join executive teams in record numbers, CEOs are taking direct ownership of sustainability issues.

Our study found that 98% of CEOs now unequivocally feel it is their role to make their business more sustainable. And, in 2022, nearly three-quarters of CEOs agreed they were accountable for their firm's sustainability performance—up from just 19% in 2013.

CEOs aren't just talking about sustainability or viewing it as a regulatory compliance issue. They're also making real changes to their businesses to better engage with key stakeholders. Four in 10 (39%) are increasing R&D funding for sustainable innovation, for example. Additionally, more than half (54%) of CEOs are improving visibility into the social impacts of their company’s value chain, and a third (34%) are reducing scope 3 emissions. It’s a meaningful shift in C-suite priorities.

Modern CEOs are owning their responsibility to protect local communities in the regions they operate. At the same time, the majority (90%) feel that limited support from government is negatively impacting their ability to tackle today's interlinked global challenges. These leaders want to see governments adopt more "green" policies—including incentives for renewables and establishing a global price on carbon—to help the private sector create a more equitable and sustainable world.

C-suite leaders are taking climate action—now


are launching new products and services for sustainability


are enhancing sustainability data collection across their value chains


are investing in renewable energy resources


are transitioning to circular business models to build resilience

Charting the course for a stronger private sector

Embracing sustainability offers opportunities for industry transformation, competitiveness and new growth. Here are the 15 core initiatives CEOs should embed across their businesses.


  • Adopt sustainable business models
  • Establish ambitious, science-based climate targets
  • Adopt a nature-positive business strategy
  • Include ESG impacts in investment decisions 

Workforce & Organization

  • Invest in the mental health and physical health of employees
  • Build and engage a representative workforce
  • Upskill and/or reskill your workforce for the green transition
  • Align leadership incentives to sustainability-based values and outcomes

Supply Chain & Data

  • Advance the collection of standardized, high-quality data
  • Enhance supply chain visibility and engagement
  • Apply analytics-driven scenario planning in business processes
  • Embed sustainability criteria into R&D
  • Accelerate the adoption of renewable energy to secure your energy supply

Ecosystem Management

  • Engage in strategic partnerships
  • Advocate for strong sustainability and resilience policy

Industry deep dive

Click below to get a detailed current and forward-looking view of your industry. 



Michael D. Hughes

Senior Manager – Sustainability Strategy & UN Programs Lead

Emilia Hull

Manager – Sustainability Strategy & Stocktake Study Lead