Monday 20 January 2020 5:31 pm

Climate change major concern for UK businesses, executives say

Nearly two thirds of UK chief executives believe that climate change presents a threat to their business, with 25 per cent saying they are “extremely concerned” about the issue.

According to PwC’s annual global survey of chief executives, UK business leaders now consider climate change more of a threat to business than populism, terrorism, protectionism and access to capital.

The level of those “extremely concerned” has more than tripled since 2016, when it stood at seven per cent.

Around the world, senior executives from Sri Lanka and New Zealand are the most concerned by climate change, at 86 and 83 per cent respectively.

Those from China and the Middle East were the least bothered, at 45 and 38 per cent respectively.

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, said: “The impact of climate change has soared up the CEO agenda.  CEOs see the impact across all aspects of business, from assets and investments to products and jobs.  They are facing pressure from their consumers to play their part.

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“Achieving net zero by 2050 will demand innovation and transformation at an unprecedented scale and speed and will require business to take positive action.”

Perhaps most concerning was the fact that only 21 per cent of UK business leaders think that they are seeing effective change in climate change policies.

Thus far, however, only 57 per cent of organisations have assessed potential transition risks, but only 48 per cent have assessed the physical risk of climate change.

Commenting on the survey’s results, James Diggle, head of energy and climate change at the CBI, said:

“Tackling climate change will require international action and leadership from business. The business community is acutely aware of the impacts of a warming world, and its role in delivering the switch to cleaner energy and low-carbon technology.

“In the UK, companies have backed our ambitious net-zero emissions target for 2050 and want to use the deadline of the UN COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow to kick-start the UK’s net-zero plans and see how much we can achieve in 2020.”

PwC launched the survey this afternoon at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which is this year focused on the theme of sustainability.

Climate change protestors, including teenage activist Greta Thunberg, have begun a three-day walk to the summit, which has prepared extensive security measures.

Also headed to the exclusive summit is Prince Charles, who will call on business leaders to spearhead the development of climate solutions as he launches a new initiative for nurturing a sustainable economy.

Some chief executives believe that climate change, whilst a threat, will also bring about opportunities for their business.

Almost three-quarters also believe their response to climate change initiatives will provide a reputational advantage for their organisation among key stakeholders.