This is a report from Eversheds Sutherland and KPMG on the results of interviews with directors and C-suite executives from more than 500 of the world’s leading companies. This survey will be repeated in 2021 in advance of COP26 to measure progress.

The pace of the energy transition will be quicker this time because the need is more immediate - it won’t be like the renewables revolution in terms of timing. This is the fastest pace of change I have experienced in my 20 years in this sector.

Jim Barry, Managing Director, Chief Investment Officer,
BlackRock Alternatives Investors
and Global Head of BlackRock Real Assets Inc.

Climate risk and decarbonization has become a significant boardroom issue requiring action:

  • Climate risk and climate resilience is now being led from the top by CEOs
  • Covid-19 is not halting the momentum around climate action in the corporate world although it may slow it down in the short-term
  • There is growing recognition among businesses that climate change may very likely result in substantial transformation of their business
  • A substantial knowledge gap exists about what is required to create a net zero carbon business
  • Recognition that the climate agenda can also bring opportunities to companies

Most companies treat climate risk as a very serious business issue:

  • Clear recognition that climate risk equates to financial risk
  • Companies are now much more focused on becoming climate resilient
  • Companies are recognizing the importance of climate risk to the success of their business strategies

External and internal pressures on companies to implement decarbonization strategies:

  • Investors are key influencers and have become very focused on climate issues when evaluating investment and divestment decisions
  • Regulators and employees have also become an important factor
  • Increasingly companies have become convinced that climate action is critical to that corporate’s own future performance
  • Upstream supply chain pressure from large corporate customers has become a reality in 2020 and many suppliers will see their businesses impacted if they do not adopt appropriate climate and carbon strategies
  • Also, the ever-increasing size of the consumer demographic that has put climate change at the top of their priorities cannot be ignored

This new focus on decarbonization and climate risk is already manifesting itself on the People Agenda for companies:

  • The importance of having directors who are knowledgeable on climate risk on corporate boards is starting to be recognized
  • Most senior executives believe their job security will be impacted to some extent by their ability to manage climate risk over the next five years
  • Climate action is increasingly becoming a key driver of executive remuneration via long-term incentive planning
  • Talent attraction and retention has become a common enterprise risk across major companies in recent years and as the war for talent heats up, the rapid polarization of younger generations on the topic of climate change has become a concern across the corporate landscape

Finally, critical barriers to decarbonizing business remain:

The most critical barriers include:

  • Costs of decarbonization perceived to be high
  • Inability to source technology solutions
  • Skills and expertise
  • Lack of awareness of potential solutions to finance climate resilience and decarbonization strategies

Sectoral analysis

  • There was some clear divergence among sectors and the automotive, consumer and retail and financial services sectors show the greatest differences in the responses
  • In particular, the financial services sector stood out where there appears to be much less concern around climate reporting, implementing decarbonization strategies or linking climate to executive remuneration.

Regional analysis

  • Broad consensus in the responses across the four geographies surveyed — United Kingdom, U.S., Europe and Asia. There was strong global consistency on key questions such as pressure points, barriers to decarbonization and the implementation of remuneration incentives for directors
  • U.S. companies are more focused and more concerned about climate risk than their counterparts in other geographies
  • Corporate reporting on climate related risks is noticeably lower in Asia than in the rest of the world