With COP27 approaching, many business leaders believe the conference will come up with outcomes needed to reach international net-zero goals, and a wide majority say investing in sustainable practices will have economic benefits, even as questions such as inflation and the war in Ukraine cloud the picture.
The responses come from a survey of 700 business executives by Deloitte and show top business climate and sustainability concerns, how involved the leaders think governments should be, and the actions needed to close sustainability gaps. Of the responses, 87% say they believe investing in sustainable practices will have economic benefits, 75% feel COP27 will generate strategies to achieve goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, and 40% say their companies will accelerate sustainability initiatives over the next year.
COP27 is set to begin in Egypt on Nov. 6, 2022; objectives such as financing climate goals across the world and resilience targets to tackle challenges such as natural events are big topics expected to be addressed. The international climate conference also comes as the world faces growing inflation, continuing supply chain questions, and energy crunches, especially in Europe as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Those situations have kept executives more reserved in outlining new sustainability targets, according to the Deloitte report. Nearly a third say they will somewhat cut back their efforts over the next 12 months and 18% say they will significantly cut back their sustainability objectives.
Additionally, three-quarters of the executives say their organizations can continue to grow as they reduce their carbon emissions. Of the respondents, 57% say they have invested in the technology needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their own operations.
Greenwashing is seen as a significant concern by the executives across multiple answers. Greenwashing, which is when a company says they are participating in sustainability initiatives for marketing purposes but don’t actually have significant efforts in place, is becoming a serious problem in their industries, according to 66% of the leaders.
Another 41% say that greenwashing should get more attention globally. Heading into COP27, 63% of the executives say governments should crack down on greenwashing, the highest response among items discussing how governments should take action.
ESG-related lawsuits are increasing, such as a recent filing against Evian claiming the company’s water bottle labels stating they are carbon neutral are misleading.
The top concern executives say should be addressed globally is climate security risk (51%), followed by ensuring a “just transition,” which tied greenwashing at 41%. The survey defines a just transition as ensuring the benefits of “transitioning to a green economy are shared widely, while also supporting those who stand to lose economically – whether countries, regions, industries, communities, workers, or consumers.”
Business transparency and accountability (34%) and financial support for emerging nations (33%) rounded out the top five. The latter is among the financial aspects of the agenda at COP27.
Other actions the respondents would like to see governments take on are minimizing investment risks for clean technologies, such as with guarantees and subsidies, implementing new regulations and policies, and creating a carbon tax. Nearly half the executives also say they would like to see international cooperation for climate and resilience policies.
The survey was conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics in August and September 2022 with executives from companies in 14 countries. All major industry sectors were included, Deloitte says.