• Organizations will be more committed to achieving environmental goals in 2020 compared to 2019, according to a recent survey.
  • Nearly eight out of 10 respondents believe last year’s climate strikes helped raise awareness of sustainability and energy issues within their organization.
  • Fewer than one-third of respondents said their company has a plan to eliminate single-use plastics.

Company leaders are taking greater interest in climate action – thanks to “the Greta effect”, according to a new report from the United Kingdom on sustainable business leadership.

The report attributes changing attitudes in the boardroom to last year’s worldwide strikes inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

The report is based on findings from a small survey sample of 330 sustainability, energy and resources professionals, 82% of whom believe that their organization will be more committed to sustainability in 2020 compared to 2019.

greta thunberg no one is too small to make a difference environment renewable solar energy change transition friendly environment carbon footprint carbon emissions reduction change natural climate change global warming air pollution clean energy power renewables plastic plastics
Sustainability's increased importance.
Image: edie: 2020 Sustainable Business Leadership Survey

This year, the World Economic Forum asked all companies attending its Annual Meeting in Davos to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Recently, oil and gas giant BP announced a target of net zero by 2050.

Nearly eight out of 10 (78%) respondents to the survey either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” the climate strikes and said “the Greta effect” had helped raise awareness of sustainability and energy issues within their organization.

greta thunberg no one is too small to make a difference environment renewable solar energy change transition friendly environment carbon footprint carbon emissions reduction change natural climate change global warming air pollution clean energy power renewables plastic plastics
The trends driving businesses priorities.
Image: edie: 2020 Sustainable Business Leadership Survey

When asked about inspirational public figures, almost half (41%) mentioned Thunberg, compared to none the previous year.

In the summer of 2018, Thunberg, then aged 15, started sitting down outside the Swedish parliament each Friday. Her solo protest triggered a global wave of school strikes to demand action on climate change.

In December 2019, she was named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year.

At Davos, for the second year running, Thunberg urged business and political leaders to wake up to climate change and get out of fossil fuels.

But there’s more to do...

The report looked at opportunities and challenges for businesses in taking environmental action.

It highlighted a lack of focus on tackling single-use plastics – only 37% of respondents said their organization had a plan to eliminate them.

The biggest potential opportunity is energy efficiency, with 48% saying it’s a “high priority” and more than a third (36%) saying it’s a “business-critical priority”. These figures are a 14% increase on last year.

Second on the list is waste management and resource efficiency, which are also rising in importance for businesses this year.