What 1,000 CEO’s really think about climate change and inequality – HBR

What 1,000 CEO’s really think about climate change and inequality – HBR

15 Oct 2019

To solve the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change and inequality, the business community will have to play a critical role. And we need CEOs who understand the challenges and want to drive deep change in how business operates.

A study on CEO attitudes came out to shed  light on how chief executives think about sustainability and other global challenges. The study collects insights from more than 1,000 CEOs. The underlying context for this year’s report is that the world is running out of time on climate change.

The report is worth spending some time with to explore the three “calls to action” they identified: (1) raising ambition and impact in CEO’s own companies, (2) “changing how we collaborate with more honesty about the challenges,”and (3) “defining responsible leadership,” which I read as the CEOs committing personally, as human beings, to change. Some key insights:

  • Business leaders feel pressure to build more sustainable enterprises from key stakeholders. Customers and employees were the top two vote getters when the CEO’s were asked which stakeholders would be most influential on how they manage sustainability.
  • Increased tension among CEOs about the perceived tradeoffs between sustainability and traditional financial metrics.
  • 88% of the CEOs “believe our global economic systems need to refocus on equitable growth.”
  • All of the large company CEOs agree that “sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses.” (Funny side note: just 62% of those CEOs would link their pay to sustainability outcomes).
  • Only 21% think business is playing a critical role in contributing to the Global Goals.
  • While 59% say they’re deploying low-carbon and renewable energy, only 44% see a net-zero future for their company in the next decade.