Y: Businesses review their climate targets while progress towards sustainable development is slowing down

Progress has been slowed to an average of 20% compared to 30% in 2022 At the same time as research, many businesses have extended the deadlines set for achieving their objectives, with timescales shifting from 2036 to 2050, as large-scale investments are required for sustainable development, planning and cooperation between the sectors of the economy. The investigation recorded views of more than 500 Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) and sustainable growth professionals, from companies with revenue of more than one billion dollars, from around the world. Increasing inflation and geopolitical turbulence, too, affect business’s ability to speed up their efforts for sustainable development. It is typical that, only 34% of respondents plan to increase investments to address climate change, from 61% in 2022. In addition, the number of actions undertaken by climate organisations has also decreased from 10 actions on average in 2022 to just four of the total 32 reference points monitored by research. Despite the challenges, research continues to highlight the significant financial benefits resulting from the implementation of sustainable development initiatives, with 52% of respondents stating that they have gained from related actions, financial value exceeding their expectations. In addition, 63% of respondents observed better than expected improvements in the value of the product and its brand. Accordingly, in our country, according to the Sustainability Value Study survey in Greece 2023 presented by EY Greece in July 2023, 45% of Greek companies in the sample gained higher financial value than their climate initiatives, compared to their expectations. The gap between ‘priorities’ and ‘observers’ is widened, as fewer organisations undertake public climate commitments As progress slows down, the number of organisations leading climate action is reduced. Only 7% of respondents now meet the criteria of “primers” – that is, organisations that undertake most climate change actions – compared to 32% in 2022. It is recalled that, on the basis of the data from the respective research of EY Greece in 2023, the percentage of “primary” organizations in our country is 9%. The gap between ‘priorities’ and ‘observers’, i.e. those taking the least measures on climate change, continues to widen. 95% of “prime” organisations continue to make public commitments on climate, but among “observers” this percentage has been reduced to 67%. Overall, the number of organisations that say they are not going to public commitments has tripled compared to 2022. However, external pressure from the market for climate action remains. More than half of the CSOs surveyed, said investors (58%) and customers (51%) function as “accelerated” of change, prompting businesses to implement their sustainable development programmes. In addition, those who remain committed to sustainable development objectives identify benefits from their actions, with eight out of 10 ‘primary’ organisations in the sample, earning higher than expected economic value, compared with only 45% of ‘observers’. The role of ‘transformational’ Chief Sustainability Officer The study also highlights the need for sustainable development leaders (CSOs), to become transformation catalysts. According to the data, organisations are more successful in sustainable development programmes when CSOs have the power to act transformatively, taking a clear mandate from the administration and having a significant influence on the organisation, an active role in the formulation of the corporate strategy, and the responsibility to evaluate the performance of other executives in terms of sustainable development objectives. “Transformative” Chief Sustainability Officers (who currently do not exceed one in five of the sample of research) achieve higher than the average emission reductions (21.2%) and undertake more climate change actions – on average, in the 27 of the 32 areas of action examined by research. They also manage to ensure greater cooperation at administrative team level (C-suite), an issue in which participants still find room for improvement.