Why net zero pledges are not enough

Four key accelerators that NEDs can use to move the dial on climate in the boardroom.
02 December 2022
net zero plans
Emily Simons

Global Innovation Lead, Sustainable Transformation Practice

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The global proliferation of net zero pledges feels like a promising sign of progress: a commitment to a shared vision of a better, or rather, livable, world. Yet the reality we find ourselves in, is far from promising. 

The UN NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) 2022 report tells a stark tale of the true picture of progress against global climate commitments, whereby NDC emission reductions do not correlate to the temperature decrease required for a habitable world.

According to STBi, 90% of global GDP is covered by net zero pledges, yet in a recent Kantar study in partnership with Chapter Zero, we determined that:

43% of non-executive directors say one of more of their boards has not or does not intend to approve a transition plan in the next financial year.

At Kantar, we often talk about the value action gap – a phenomenon whereby individual values do not match with individual behaviors – and how brands can help people who want to live more sustainably, make more sustainable choices. Of course, the sum of people's individual footprints, particularly in the Global North, is significant; and of course, we must all do our bit individually. But businesses must also step up and take responsibility for the enormous volume of emissions on their docket. 

What we see here, is not just a gap, but a veritable gulf. This ‘purpose-action’ gulf exists at a critical inflexion point in our decarbonization journey, where pledges must evolve into robust, measurable plans that deliver net zero in line with multi-stakeholder needs. Addressing this gulf requires bravery and cause-led commitment, as well as an assertive level of optimism from those with influence, and swimming (often) against the tide at a time of deep political, economic, and social uncertainty. 

In this context, we look to the non-executive director community to push for change, to steer their ships with purpose –to translate good intention into concrete action.  

“If we have a deliberate intention to accomplish some goals, the joining of conferences and speaking on boards is not enough. We must act. We cannot just sit in our ivory tower.”
Non-executive director

In partnership with Chapter Zero, we explored what accelerators enabled non-executive directors to play a more meaningful role in the climate conversation. These levers are essential ingredients to accelerating the net zero agenda in the boardroom, and critically, responding to this ‘purpose-action’ gulf. 

Reframe: Position sustainability as a growth lever, not a growth inhibitor
Listen: Seek diverse voices across the business to gain a deeper understanding of business realities and how they intersect with net zero
Learn: Continuously up-skill on net zero in relation to your sector(s)
Collaborate: Connect with other NEDs in your sector and beyond

Visit our co-authored #PlansBeyondPledges microsite to find out more and get in touch with the Sustainable Transformation Practice at Kantar if you’d like to discuss how we can help brands navigate the just and equitable net zero transition. 

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