To Remain Competitive Companies Must Become Carbon Neutral Within A Decade

GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey: The Climate Decade: Ten Years to Deliver the Paris Agreement

2020 Survey of Sustainability Experts

11 February 2020 – Released today at the flagship GLOBE conference in Vancouver, findings of a new report “The Climate Decade: Ten Years to Deliver the Paris Agreement” by GlobeScan and SustainAbility, show that experts see the coming decade as crucial for companies to make significant progress on their emissions targets in order to remain competitive. Two-thirds (67%) of experts across 66 countries say that companies need to become carbon neutral by 2030 or sooner to remain competitive.

Consequences of Not Addressing Climate Change

Sustainability experts warn that reputational harm to their businesses will be the most severe consequence for companies that are not adequately addressing climate change.  Inside their own walls, increased physical and financial vulnerability to climate related impacts ranks second in consequential impact, followed by a lack of access to capital and divestment.

GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey: The Climate Decade: Ten Years to Deliver the Paris Agreement - chart 1
GlobeScan and SustainAbility asked more than 550 global experts representing business, government, NGOs and academia across almost 70 countries to evaluate progress on addressing climate change generally, and specifically on the track record of corporate action and leadership.

Both national governments and the private sector are seen by experts as key for advancing climate goals, with national governments being perceived as playing the most crucial role for making progress. More than eight in ten sustainability professionals say that government actors at the national level play a “very important” role, while three-quarters say the same about private sector companies.

Corporate Climate Leadership

The study also identifies the companies that experts think are role models. Unilever is seen as a clear leader on climate change by almost one-quarter of sustainability professionals; Unilever was also chosen as a top climate leader in the two most recent previous editions of the survey (2017 and 2015, respectively).

Consumer-facing and technology companies are most recognized by experts for their efforts around climate change, with Patagonia, Tesla, IKEA and Alphabet/Google rounding out the top five leading companies. As in 2017, Brazilian cosmetics manufacturer Natura continues to be the only emerging market company to make the top ten leaders list.

GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey: The Climate Decade: Ten Years to Deliver the Paris Agreement - chart 2
Overall, progress on addressing climate change is seen as insufficient, with half of sustainability experts (49%) believing it is unlikely that we will avert major damage from climate change if we continue at the present rate at which society is making progress toward addressing the threat. Another 16 percent say that major damage to human, social, and ecosystem health has already occurred, while a similar proportion remains optimistic that there is still time to avert disaster.

Eric Whan, Director, GlobeScan commented: “Our latest research confirms that expectations of companies, and indeed of those who regulate them, are reaching new highs. The pressure is on for 2020, and experts are pointing fingers at both good and bad.”

Current Progress is Not Enough

Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility said: “This survey is a reminder that current action, while certifiably representing progress, is not enough to stave off major damage from climate change. There is still significant work to do, and we need all corporations, not just current leaders, to take immediate and rapid steps towards a low-carbon future.”

“These results underline the critical importance of more action and ambition on climate change across the board,” said Mike Gerbis, CEO of GLOBE Series and The Delphi Group. “At GLOBE 2020, it is inspiring to be among so many of the companies and individuals who are at the vanguard of sustainability and climate leadership, and we look forward to accelerating our collective impact over the next decade.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

Register to join a February 18 webinar to explore the findings.

Survey Methodology

554 qualified sustainability experts completed the online questionnaire from October 31st to December 20th, 2019.

Please note that this survey and reporting were completed prior to the UN Climate Change Conference COP25.

GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey: The Climate Decade: Ten Years to Deliver the Paris Agreement - methodology

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About SustainAbility

SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company, is a global think tank and advisory firm. Our vision is a just and sustainable world for present and future generations. Through our agenda-setting research and advocacy, we chart new territory and help business leaders and their stakeholders understand what’s next. Through our advisory services, we help clients understand the shifting landscape of risk and opportunity, develop practical strategies and initiatives, and foster authentic, impactful engagement and collaboration with a range of stakeholders. Learn more at


GLOBE Series is the largest and longest-running sustainable business summit and innovation expo in North America. Since 1990, 170,000 people from 97 countries have come to GLOBE to learn from industry leaders, marvel at cutting-edge technology and form long-lasting partnerships.
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