UK CEOs signal surge in green investment and greater commitment to measuring and reporting on climate

 

  • 60% of UK CEOs plan to increase their long-term investments in sustainability and ESG 

  • Over half believe they should still be doing more to measure and report the environmental impact of their business

  • 70% percent of UK CEOs are concerned about the impact of climate change

  • Only 45% of UK CEOs believe that the government's recovery plan will deliver long-term environmental goals

 

The majority (60%) of UK CEOs plan to increase their long-term investments in sustainability and ESG initiatives over the next three years, and over half believe they should still be doing more to measure (51%) and report (53%) the environmental impact of their business, according to PwC’s 24th CEO Survey.  Some 43% said they explicitly factored climate change and environmental damage into their strategic risk management activities. 

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

“Climate has become a fundamental business issue, and CEOs recognise they need to step up. Companies are starting to transform their business models, supply chains, products and services. This is driving investment, better measurement and reporting of environmental impacts, which should in turn fuel further action.”

70% of UK CEOs are concerned about the impact of climate change, with almost a third (31%) extremely concerned about the issue (up from 24% last year). However, climate change still only ranks ninth among UK CEOs’ perceived threats to growth, with 29% of UK CEOs saying they are “not concerned at all” or “not very concerned” about the issue. This may be because climate change is not seen as an immediate threat to growth compared to other issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, over-regulation and cyber threats. When it comes to 'extreme concern', climate change jumps up the list of threats to fourth position in the perceived list of threats for UK CEOs' growth prospects.

Almost half (49%) of UK CEOs think reducing climate change and environmental damage should be a top three government priority, compared to 34% globally and 50% said it should be a top three UK business priority (34% globally).  However, the confidence isn't quite there yet. Only 45% of UK CEOs believe it is likely that the government's recovery plan will effectively balance short-term economic needs with long-term environmental goals, while 33% believe it is unlikely that the recovery plan will achieve this.  

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

“The Chancellor laid some foundations for the transition in the Spring Budget, but the need for  a robust roadmap with bigger and bolder moves to accelerate the changes needed to deliver the Government’s 10-point plan is becoming more urgent. We have already seen how fast systems can transform when public policy, technological innovation, skills development and investment line up – the automotive industry being a case in point.”

Looking ahead, Emma Cox added:

“The wave of businesses, investors, and governments committing to ambitious net zero targets over the last year is a promising sign that a shared sense of urgency is emerging. We have just over two business cycles to transform every sector of the global economy to halve global emissions. With COP26 taking place in Glasgow in November, the UK has an opportunity to take a leadership role in tackling climate change and leverage this moment and galvanize the international community to deliver critical outcomes.”

 

 

 

Notes to editors

The CEO Survey can be found here

PwC surveyed 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and territories in January and February 2021. This is up from 3,501 respondents in last year’s survey. The global and regional figures in this report are based on a sub-sample of 1,779 CEOs, proportionate to country nominal GDP to ensure that CEOs’ views are representative across all major regions. Further details by region, country and industry are available on request. 

Of the 1,779 CEOs whose responses were used for the global and regional figures:

  • 6% of their organisations had revenues of US$25bn or more

  • 9% of their organisations had revenues between US$10bn and US$25bn.

  • 35% of their organisations had revenues between US$1bn and US$10bn.

  • 34% of their organisations had revenues between US$100m and US$1bn.

  • 14% of their organisations had revenues of up to US$100m.

  • 60% of their organisations were privately owned.

 

We also conducted in-depth, face-to-face interviews with CEOs from six regions. Some of these interviews are quoted in this report, and more extensive transcripts can be found on our website at https://www.strategy-business.com/inside-the-mind-of-the-ceo.

 

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