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Leaders concerned about climate change can turn worry into action. Here’s how.

Davos 2023 ; Strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change will be key in helping companies survive and thrive.

Strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change will be key in helping companies survive and thrive. Image: Amber Martin/Unsplash

Punit Renjen
Global Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, Deloitte USA, Deloitte
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • According to recent research, 62% of executives constantly feel stressed about climate change.
  • Strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change will be key in helping companies survive and thrive.
  • Companies have a responsibility to put their worry about climate change into action.

We are in a defining moment in human history. Nations are struggling to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the face of a global energy crisis, war in Ukraine, and rising economic uncertainty. Extreme weather events in the US, deadly heat waves in Europe, and devastating floods in Pakistan are among the most recent climate crises looming over this year’s meeting in Davos.

And the impact may be a lot more far-reaching than originally thought.

Climate change and mental health among business leaders

Deloitte’s 2023 CxO Sustainability Report revealed an eye-opening finding about the impact of climate change on mental health. According to the report of just over 2,000 C-suite executives across 24 countries, 62% admitted to feeling stressed “all” or “most of the time” about climate change. Only 5% of those surveyed said they never felt stressed about it.

The good news is that, even with increased stress levels, these business leaders seem to be moving in the right direction on addressing the impacts of climate change. Our survey showed that most (75%) have stepped up their sustainability investments over the past year. More than half indicated that employee activism and the changing regulatory environment were big parts of what compelled them into action.

But what can business leaders do now to avert the worst impacts of climate change on our communities and our well-being?


Adapting and mitigating

They can start by embedding both climate mitigation and adaptation activities into their core business operations.

The reality is that we will have to live with the consequences of climate change even if mitigation efforts stabilise the climate. That is why adaptation measures, the process of adjusting to the current and future effects of climate change, such as making infrastructure more resilient to climate impacts, are paramount.

Many leaders rightly focus on the costs of such efforts. However, mitigation and adaptation represent an untapped opportunity for the private sector. Consider what climate inaction would cost the global economy: $178 trillion by 2070 atop greater human costs, such as a lack of food and water, loss of jobs, and worsening health and well-being, according to a Deloitte estimate. But climate action can deliver $43 trillion in net present value. In other words, if we act now, the transformation of the economy can set the world up for stronger growth and also help curb the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

To make meaningful headway, the private sector must help to develop and implement adaptation strategies.

Deloitte Global CEO Emeritus

To make meaningful headway, the private sector must help to develop and implement adaptation strategies. We have the know-how, influence, and scale to do it. And I think the best place for us to start is to engage the broader ecosystem to create solutions that facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change requires understanding local risks and developing plans to manage them. It means putting in place systems that respond to impacts we are experiencing today while also preparing for an uncertain tomorrow. These actions can include diversifying crops that can tolerate warmer and drier or wetter conditions, ensuring infrastructure can withstand more extreme weather patterns, and helping communities to reduce their risk from sea level rise and increased floods.


How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

Setting an example

Helping to lead the way, Deloitte launched our WorldClimate strategy in 2020, to drive responsible climate choices within our organization and beyond. We recognise change starts within. Through WorldClimate, Deloitte committed to near-term (2030) greenhouse gas reduction goals which have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) as 1.5°C-aligned, science-based targets.

We also educated our people about climate change impacts to empower them to make climate positive choices. And finally, by collaborating with Deloitte clients, alliances, non-profit organizations, and suppliers, we have taken steps in addressing climate change at a systems and operations level. This was not just about doing the right thing. It was also about doing the right thing for our business.

The worry that leaders feel about the climate crisis is a wake-up call and the time to act is now. Across business, government and civil society, leaders have a responsibility to address what is a defining challenge of our time.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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May 21, 2024

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