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Climate change soars up CEO agenda

Jan 20, 2020

  • Climate change related threats to business polled higher than concerns over populism, terrorism and access to captial in the latest PwC global CEO survey.

  • Two thirds (64%) of UK CEOs see climate change as a threat to their business, with a quarter (25%) extremely concerned.  

  • Addressing the challenge will drive new products & services say more than half (51%) of  UK CEOs. 

Sixty four percent of UK CEOs believe that climate change is a threat to their organisation, with a quarter of UK CEOs (25%) being extremely concerned about the issue - tripling from 2016 levels, when only 7% of UK CEOs were extremely concerned. Climate change threats to business polled higher than concerns over populism, terrorism, protectionism and access to capital in PwC’s 23rd annual CEO Survey, released today.

The concerns of UK business leaders are shared by CEOs around the world, with CEOs from Sri Lanka and New Zealand most concerned (86% and 83% respectively) whilst CEOs from the Middle East and China the least (38% and 45%).  

Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC, said:

“The impact of climate change has soared up the CEO agenda.  CEOs see the impact across all aspects of business, from assets and investments to products and jobs.  They are facing pressure from their consumers to play their part. This means boards need to assess their strategies, risks, and business models. Achieving net zero by 2050 will demand innovation and transformation at an unprecedented scale and speed and will require business to take positive action.” 

Over half (51%) agree that climate change initiatives will lead to significant new product and service opportunities. Furthermore, almost three-quarters (74%) of UK CEOs - and a similar proportion of global CEOs - believe that their response to climate change initiatives will provide a reputational advantage for their organisation among key stakeholders. 

Policy, regulation and risk

CEOs are less sanguine when it comes to climate related policies. More than half (54%) of UK CEOs do not believe that they are seeing changes in international policies that will mitigate climate change risks, and only 21% of UK CEOs believe they are seeing effective change in this area. This is well below the global average where 36% of CEOs believe they are seeing effective change.

Subsequent regulation stemming from the changing environment is also a concern for UK CEOs: 36% are more concerned about climate-related regulation than other forms of regulation, for example consumer protection and trade.  

UK CEOs do admit, however, that they have more to do themselves. Despite the shift to a carbon neutral economy, only 57% of UK organisations have assessed potential transition risks and only 48% have assessed potential physical risks associated with climate change. 

Emma Cox, UK leader for climate change and sustainability at PwC, said:

“Apprehension about current climate policies underscores the need for greater collaboration between government, businesses, non-profits, and consumers. Stimulating clear market solutions like electric vehicles or decentralised energy grids requires the right investment, infrastructure, incentives and taxes. With the UN’s pivotal climate summit taking place in Glasgow this year, the UK can help set the world on a new course of action. It will require significant change and compromise from everyone - 2020 heralds a decade of decarbonisation and transformation like no other.”



Notes to editors

Explore the UK findings at and download the global report at Video footage from the launch of the Global CEO Survey in Davos and other media materials are available at:

PwC conducted 1,581 interviews with CEOs in 83 countries between September and October 2019. Our sample is weighted by national GDP to ensure that CEOs’ views are fairly represented across all major regions. 7% of the interviews were conducted by telephone, 88% online, and 5% by post or face-to-face. All quantitative interviews were conducted on a confidential basis. 46% of companies had revenues of $1 billion or more; 35% of companies had revenues between $100 million and $1 billion; 15% of companies had revenues of up to $100 million; 55% of companies were privately owned.

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Rebecca Lloyd

Manager, Corporate Affairs, PwC United Kingdom

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