Climate leadership in the eleventh hour

The latest United Nations Global Compact – Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability offers a candid look at the perspectives of more than 1,230 CEOs across 113 countries and 21 industries. It outlines the urgent opportunities and challenges for business leaders to address now and in the future from the climate crisis.

  • CEOs report that their businesses are already experiencing the damaging effects of climate change and they are ready to take bold action.
  • Those impacts are a wakeup call that’s accelerating their transition to more sustainable business models.
  • CEOs say the window of opportunity to turn things around is closing, but key actions can help.
  • Some CEOs have a head start. These leaders demonstrate behaviors that are critical to achieving a competitive advantage from sustainability.
  • To make the most impact, CEOs say policy makers must take critical actions.

VIDEO: United Nations Global Compact and Accenture discuss CEO Study at COP26

“We at Accenture are driven by the science, the economics and the data, which tells us clearly that when leaders bridge business value, sustainability impact and technology enablement, competitive advantage thrives.”

— Peter Lacy, Chief Responsibility Officer and Global Sustainability Services Lead – Accenture

Climate change is here and now

  • CEOs are navigating increased frequency of natural disasters around the world, which is creating an urgent need to adapt and build resilience—particularly across supply chains.
  • Pressure from investors and capital markets is incentivizing more rapid climate action—all amid a global pandemic.
  • Some companies have formed partnerships with competitors and are addressing biodiversity risks, while hundreds have set science-based targets in line with the Paris Agreement, but thousands more need to increase their ambition to ensure a viable future.

Current state of affairs

  • As CEO’s transition to net-zero business models some report they are struggling to manage scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions and have only just begun advancing nature-based solutions to build more resilient companies. They also say that they haven’t done enough to mitigate workforce disruption and ensure a just transition to a green economy.
  • CEOs agree that technology is enabling new business models and will unlock the future of industry decarbonization. But to fulfil technology’s promise, CEOs will need effective data management across the value chain and must overcome affordability and knowledge constraints.
  • CEOs are demanding an increase in climate financing for the Global South to catalyze their response.

Unlocking competitive advantage

  • Leading CEOs say they have begun diversifying their operations and workforces, are accelerating research and development investment in climate-resilient solutions and are holding themselves to higher standards of accountability.
  • These transformational companies are shifting from fossil fuel use faster and reskilling their workforce in sustainability.

CEOs need more clarity from policy makers

To make the most impact, critical policy actions must be taken, too.

Align Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on the pathway to limit global temperature rise to a 1.5°C warming trajectory.

Enhance global cooperation on carbon pricing mechanisms in line with the Paris Agreement.

Meet and exceed the USD 100 billion commitment in climate financing for the Global South.

Establish common standards for biodiversity protection and pathways for nature-based solutions.

Increase business engagement in climate policy formation for collaborative climate action.

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