43% of CEOs say net zero is driving transformation projects - PwC’s 27th Annual UK CEO Survey

  • Press Release
  • 27 Feb 2024
  • Over a quarter (28%) of UK CEOs say they are moderately or extremely exposed to the threat of climate change

  • 85% of UK CEOs have taken steps to improve energy efficiency 

  • A quarter expect climate change to shift the way they create, deliver, and capture value over the next three years

  • Over a third (37%) say regulatory complexity is hindering their company’s ability to decarbonise 

With the first year-long breach of the 1.5°C warming limit, business leaders around the world continue to recognise the disruptive force that climate change will be for their business. 

New analysis from PwC’s 27th annual CEO Survey finds that over a quarter (28%) of UK CEOs say they are moderately or extremely exposed to the threat of climate change over the next 12 months. With a quarter (24%) that expect climate change to shift the way they create, deliver, and capture value over the next three years.

As a result, climate change remains high on the agenda for UK CEOs with 43% of business transformation projects driven by net zero. However, over a quarter (26%) say they have no plans for net zero transformation - so it is an area for focus.

When asked about barriers to decarbonisation, 40% of UK CEOs say that lack of demand from external stakeholders is inhibiting their company’s ability to decarbonise their business model. This is followed closely by a lack of climate-friendly technology in their sector (38%), regulatory complexity (37%) and lower returns from climate-friendly investments (34%).

Carl Sizer, Head of Regions and Management Board Sponsor for ESG at PwC UK, said:

“​Meeting climate-related goals and balancing this with overall business performance remains one of the biggest and most important priorities for UK CEOs. We see the most impactful progress made when both decarbonisation and sustainability are integrated into wider business transformation plans.​ 

“The insights derived from carefully structured data, paired with the right technology, will help accelerate decarbonisation plans, while proving progress to stakeholders.​ Our recent Global  Investor Survey showed that 93% of respondents who invest in the UK believe that corporate reporting on sustainability performance contains at least some level of unsupported claims. Ultimately, effective transformation can help deliver the transparency needed to build trust and drive awareness and action on sustainability across an organisation.”

Energy efficiency a key focus for UK CEOs

Energy remains a key focus for business leaders, with 85% of UK CEOs saying they have taken steps to improve energy efficiency to reduce their energy consumption. 

This follows pledges from world leaders at COP28 to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 and double the rate of energy efficiency improvement.

Recent research by PwC and the World Economic Forum, as part of the Transforming Energy Demand initiative, highlights the further opportunities on offer for businesses and the global economy by taking unified, formal action on reducing energy demand.

The report, supported by over 120 global CEOs who are members of the International Business Council (IBC), a group representing ~3% of global energy use,  highlights how business action in buildings, industry and transport can boost growth, cut greenhouse gas emissions and unlock annual savings of at least US$2 trillion for the global economy if implemented by 2030. This is equivalent to a cost-efficient 31% reduction of demand, shared across all economic sectors, and could avoid the construction of 3,000 extra power stations, according to estimates from the report.

Carl Sizer, Head of Regions and Management Board Sponsor for ESG at PwC UK, added:

“Amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions and significant electoral activity in several regions, 2024 is set to be a bumpy year on the climate agenda with plenty to distract boards from taking action on sustainability. But the culmination of major regulatory change and failure to take action on sustainability and net zero will create both competitive and legal risk. 

“A data-led, actionable strategy, positioned at the core of wider business priorities is vital in securing the commercial value of sustainability. Those business leaders that take the long view and focus on creating progress are likely to be at a significant advantage in the next few years and beyond.”


Notes to Editors

PwC conducted 4,702  interviews with CEOs in 105 countries and territories in October and November 2023, including 135 CEOs in the UK. In the UK, 34% were from companies with less than US $100 million; 22% from companies with > US $1 billion. In the UK, 76% were from privately owned companies.


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