Climate change a “significant priority” for corporate leadersWe Mean Business
New research by BSR surveyed the way in which business leaders from 196 global companies take into account climate issues and policies in their business strategies and goals. The results show that 83% of the respondents consider energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions across their operations as a priority, with the recently-approved Sustainable Development Goals being often mentioned as “an important external development that will drive corporate sustainability efforts.”
When it comes to what impact the Paris agreement might have on businesses, the responses vary significantly according to the geographical location. 69% of the European respondents position COP21 as a priority, compared to 41% of the North American ones.
These findings come out less than a month after the PwC survey “CEO pulse”, which showed similar results in the analysis of what drives CEOs’ decisions when it comes to climate actions. The survey showed that rising energy prices, regulatory changes and green growth opportunities, in this order, were the main drivers of sustainable and climate actions.
But the most interesting data in the PwC survey concerned what impact regulations seem to have on CEOs. The survey found that only 46% of CEOs thought a Paris agreement would drive real climate change action in their sector, whereas 77% stated that clear, consistent and long-term national policies would be effective in driving climate actions.
As the PwC survey stressed, “essentially, CEOs are telling us they want governments to lead (and remove market uncertainty) with clear, consistent and long term regulation, and raise public awareness to gain the support of the consumers. Business will follow with lower carbon, more climate resilient products, services and solutions, and some of the finance.”
The business community has raised its voice in recent years, calling for this kind of clear, long-term policy. And while there is no doubt that a Paris agreement is necessary to provide guidance and a framework for global climate actions, it should be seen as complementary to national policy and regulation.
One of the policy asks supported by We Mean Business is the call for a carbon price. Though a Paris agreement would be crucial to enable and support links between jurisdictions implementing carbon pricing, national governments will have to work independently to put a price on carbon that would work in their markets.
Businesses and investors across the world have been calling for meaningful carbon pricing mechanisms, as this would give a stronger push to clean energy and other low carbon technologies, ramping up the low-carbon transition. As the leaders of the six major European oil and gas companies wrote in a letter to UN in June, “carbon pricing will discourage high carbon options and reduce uncertainty that will help stimulate investments in the right low-carbon technologies and the right resources at the right pace.”
The findings from BSR and other surveys prove that there is growing awareness among business leaders both about the material risk posed by climate change, and the opportunities that have opened up as a result of the low carbon market.. Once the lights go down on COP21, it will be down to national leaders, working in conjunction with the business community, to forge strong, national policies that companies can get behind.