Survey: Corporates maintaining long-term sustainability plans despite Covid-19 crisis

The vast majority of sustainability professionals do not believe their employer will backtrack on long-term sustainability plans, in spite of the challenges posted by the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey from The Climate Group has concluded.

97% of respondents said their employers were sticking to existing long-term goals 

97% of respondents said their employers were sticking to existing long-term goals 

In its research, The Climate Group polled 100 senior sustainability professionals from businesses committed to one or more of its business initiatives, to garner their views on how their role has changed since lockdown began.

Of the respondents, 97% said their employers were sticking to existing long-term goals around climate change and 96% said that climate action is either just as important, or more important, to their business than it was pre-pandemic.

Additionally, eight in ten felt that their company has been able to deliver climate-related actions as usual since the pandemic was declared. This is promising, given that the crisis has caused supply chain disruption, majorly shaken-up financial planning and required companies to adapt to new requirements around social distancing and PPE.

However, the general consensus was that businesses need further government support if they are to meet their sustainability goals in a post-pandemic world.

88% of respondents cited the need for further government action of some kind, with half urging business-specific measures and two-thirds stating that general economic stimulus packages should prioritise decarbonisation measures.

Corporates have been extremely vocal in recent weeks and months about the need for “green” recovery plans from national governments. More than 200 business and investors this month signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging a package in which all measures are designed to create a net-zero, socially equal society. The letter was signed by the likes of Sky, Asda and Lloyds Bank, along with networks like The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and Business In The Community.

“Business commitment to tackling climate change is now incredibly robust, and companies also see it as their responsibility to build a greener, fairer future,” The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson said.

Governments should feel confident that implementing strong climate policy and green recovery measures will be welcomed and commended by the private sector.”

The UK's economic stimulus package is due to be unveiled before the end of the month, with Boris Johnson and his Cabinet having repeatedly given verbal assertations that it will deliver benefits for people and planet as well as the economy. 

Pick of the bunch

It is worth noting that the professionals surveyed by The Climate Group all hail from businesses which had already set ambitious sustainability goals; their firms had joined either the RE100, EP100 or EV100 pre-pandemic.

There are fears that businesses which had not taken such a leadership stance could roll back or delay commitments in favour of short-term financial gains, particularly if they hail from nations which have weakened green legislation in a bid to boost the economy. Ministers in the likes of Canada, Brazil and the US have all either suspended pre-existing requirements or postponed or weakened incoming laws.

In edie’s own survey of 102 UK-based sustainability professionals, 44% were either experiencing or forecasting challenges with project or strategy delivery as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, more than one-third (37%) said their employer is planning to pause, postpone or downscale investments into green technologies in light of the environmental impact of the coronavirus.

Sarah George



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