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Business leaders challenge fellow CEOs to raise their game on net-zero commitments

March 31, 2022, 10:04 AM UTC

Good morning.

I’ve written here before about the rapidly proliferating commitments big companies are making to address climate change. A study last fall found 38% of the Fortune Global 500 have made commitments to reduce emissions by 2030, and 25% have adopted net-zero targets—up sharply from previous years. And those numbers have increased even more since. 

But at a Fortune roundtable yesterday, participating CEOs made clear that business still has a long way to go to make those commitments a reality. Some excerpts: 

“The biggest challenge is not with the Fortune 500 or public companies…The biggest challenge is mid-market companies that don’t have the resources and don’t have the knowledge but have very significant emission footprints.” —David McKay, CEO, RBC

“I think there’s a huge disconnect between what we see the big global companies doing and what we see in the mid-market. The mid-market isn’t moving.” —Valerie Keller, Cofounder, Imagine

“Many of us as CEOs have given targets…But then how do you really measure it, and what’s the starting point? I think there is still a huge gap, particularly on Scope 3. The tools are coming together, but it’s still quite a way to get there. So I would say, companies are increasingly ready and willing, but it will be quite a process to get there.” Christoph Schweizer, CEO, BCG

”I think that we’re going to see a lot more greenwashing accusations this year. You know emissions reduction is really critical to a net-zero story. We should all be prepared for a lot more poking around on our commitments, really making sure they’re locked up, and the emissions part of it is really up front and center, and that the offsetting is secondary.” Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce

“We will see a lot of greenwashing over the next couple of years. We have way too many people focus on offsetting rather than reducing emissions.” —Christian Ulbrich, CEO, JLL

“I’m 100% of a believer that we are way too late, that 2050 is way too late, and every CEO on this call needs to have a plan that gets there much, much sooner.” —Bracken Darrell, CEO, Logitech

“2050 is too far away. And, you know, if we don’t act earlier on, there is going to be a significant degrading during the next 10 years.” —Chano Fernandez, Co-CEO, Workday

But while highlighting the challenges, the conversation also offered further evidence of how quickly many are moving to address those challenges. More comments:

“This is a complex challenge, like peace and hunger and diversity and inclusion. It’s big and complex. But we are making progress.” —Bob Sulentic, CEO, CBRE

“Every year we’re designing millions upon millions of square feet of office space. And as the largest design firm in the world, we’ve taken a real stand this year…By 2030, we will eliminate or halve emissions in all our work to be net zero. We are going to do that by specifying products and materials that have lower environmental impacts.” —Andy Cohen, co-CEO, Gensler

“We actually took the decision 22 years ago to get to net zero. We have actually tracked that we generated an incremental $1 billion in revenue because of being a purpose-driven brand.” —Roger Barnett, CEO, Shaklee 

“I think, when we have this conversation five years from now, you’re going to see that the restaurant on the corner or the mom-and-pop coffee shop are saying that they have to make a net-zero commitment, because that’s how fast this is changing. And it’s being driven not by governments or even necessarily by business, but by people power—by people saying, ‘We want to work at, and shop with, businesses that are leading on this.’” —Andrei Cherny, CEO, Aspiration

More news below.

Alan Murray


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Bernhard Warner.

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