Four out of 10 CEOs ready to sacrifice profits to put climate action first

Nearly half of chief execs also believe their companies ‘will not be viable in ten years’ without major changes

Stuti Mishra
Climate Correspondent
Wednesday 17 January 2024 08:54 GMT
Related: Drone footage shows extent of Germany floods

Four in ten business leaders say that they are willing to compromise on short-term profits in order to prioritise climate action.

Around 40 per cent of 4,702 chief executives across 105 countries surveyed by PwC, the world’s largest consulting firm, said they have “accepted lower hurdle rates for climate-friendly investments than for other investments”.

A third of respondents said the climate crisis was expected to shift how they do business over the next three years, with 30 per cent expecting these changes to be “big” or “very big.”

In the last Global CEO Survey only 25 per cent of respondents gave this answer, underscoring a growing level of concern at some of the world’s largest companies about the impacts of global warming.

This comes after 2023 brought unprecedented levels of extreme weather events and the hottest temperatures on record. 2024 is expected to be even hotter.

The sense of urgency was stronger among CEOs in locations where the climate crisis is having more immediate impacts. Business leaders in Asia were willing to undergo more short-term losses to prioritise climate action than in other regions.

The survey also found that 45 per cent of CEOs believe their companies “will not be viable in ten years” if it doesn’t transition.

“As business leaders are becoming less concerned about macroeconomic challenges, they are becoming more focused on disruptive forces within their industries,” Bob Moritz, global chairman of PwC, said in a statement.

“Whether it is accelerating the rollout of generative AI or building their business to address the challenges and opportunities of the climate transition, this is a year of transformation,” he added.

The survey comes as business elites, political leaders, and activists gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum with concerns over spiralling climate crisis and AI top on the agenda.

However, the new report doesn’t mean that all large corporations are taking climate risks into consideration.

The PwC report noted that “fewer than half of all respondents have incorporated climate risk into financial planning – and nearly one-third have no plans to do so”.

They also appeared unwilling to invest more money in reskilling workers for a net-zero economy or investing more in nature-based climate solutions - even though PwC surveys have previously shown that 55 per cent of global GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature.

The survey also showed an increase in confidence in the global economy among CEOs, despite wars in Ukraine and Gaza. Of the executives, 38 per cent were optimistic about growth, compared to 18 per cent last year.

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