Corporate sustainability plans unaffected by COVID-19, but government should do more, says new survey

In spite of uncertainties and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, 97% of business professionals say their long-term sustainability strategy remains unchanged, while 80% say their company has been able to maintain their current climate actions during the crisis. But nearly half (47%) said they still need more supportive government policies to be able to achieve their sustainability goals.

This is according to new data from international non-profit, The Climate Group, which surveyed the opinion of 100 of the world’s leading private sector sustainability professionals to assess the impact of COVID-19. Respondents come from some of the most ambitious global companies committed to taking actions on energy and transport emissions, including large financial institutions, retail groups and tech giants.

When asked about governments’ role in rebuilding after the worst of the pandemic, there is strong business support for green measures: 63% of respondents said that governments’ economic stimulus packages must invest first in measures that accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy.

Interestingly, a similar number (59%) believe that any financial support should come with green strings attached, prioritizing industries that cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and create green jobs. Likewise, 50% said that taxpayer money should not be used for bailing out fossil fuel companies.

Only 12% did not cite the need for any further government action and very few (3%) did not agree with economic stimulus packages prioritizing climate.

Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, said:

“Business commitment to tackling climate change is now incredibly robust. Companies also see it as their responsibility to build a greener, fairer future. Governments should feel confident that implementing strong climate policy and green recovery measures will be welcomed and commended by the private sector. By working together, businesses and policymakers can help to ensure economies recover from the COVID-19 crisis while also halving emissions by 2030.”

Nearly all (96%) feel that climate action is just as, if not more important, to their business now compared to pre COVID-19. But while these attitudes remain steadfast, two in five (43%) also expect governments to be more interventionist to sustain corporate action on climate.

Some other upshots include predictions that business leaders will want to be more ambitious on tackling big societal issues like climate change (52%), and that stakeholders from customers to employees will want companies to do more and act faster on climate (49%). However, over half (55%) also feel that climate action might be at risk of falling down the corporate priority ladder if job creation and economic growth do take precedence.