Eversheds Sutherland: Boardrooms must consider ‘people factor’ in decarbonisation

Eversheds Sutherland: Boardrooms must consider 'people factor' in decarbonisation

Joanne Hyde

A failure to consider the “people factor” in boardroom decarbonisation strategies could undermine climate change mitigation efforts, according to a new report from Eversheds Sutherland and KPMG.

A second survey of senior executives and business leaders found an increased corporate confidence in decarbonisation plans, juxtaposed with a potential C-suite knowledge gap and impact on the workforce.

All respondents said their companies have a strategy or plan to identify, qualify and report climate risk to the business. However, only half have established a clearly defined decarbonisation plan to date.

Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) said that they have the climate knowledge, resources, skills and expertise to develop and deliver on their current decarbonisation plan. In last year’s survey, nearly half (47 per cent) said not having the right skills in the business was the most challenging barrier to decarbonisation.

The Climate Change & the People Factor report, published to coincide with the COP26 summit in Glasgow, is based on a survey of 1,095 C-suite leaders across some of the world’s leading companies. It follows a similar review of C-suite opinions and attitudes to climate risk published in 2020.

Nearly all respondents now recognise that significant changes are needed to their company’s business model, all or in part, to deal effectively with climate risk. Last year, only 74 per cent identified that significant changes are needed to the business model.

Mike Hayes, co-author of the report and global head of renewables at KPMG Ireland, said: “Corporates have made significant progress in recognizing what needs to be done to address the challenges, compared to the initial report ‘Climate change and corporate value’.

“What is clear though, is that more could be done at an individual and team level to assist with the drive towards decarbonization, and there is an opportunity for cooperation among businesses, training providers and governments to really advance this development and help ensure global businesses confront climate risk head-on.”

Joanne Hyde, partner and head of employment at Eversheds Sutherland Ireland, said: “Business leaders have made significant progress in addressing climate risk within their organizations but recognize the upskilling challenges and the people impact of climate transition.

“However, they also see the opportunities to further engage employees around this important topic and that doing so can help to accelerate the transition; this may include incentivizing employees to achieve implementation of solutions within their companies.

“An organization that can harness both the skills and energy within the workforce to engage in the challenges presented by climate risk will see a significant boost in their progress towards decarbonization. However, to ensure the people factor isn’t overlooked, Governments also need to play an integral role in helping to ensure the retraining and upskilling of the workforce.”

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