As companies reel from the effects of COVID-19, there a danger that climate change will slip off the boardroom agenda 

Board directors have been informed of the need to maintain focus on meeting the UK government’s target of a net zero carbon economy by 2050, as well as the short-term goal of reaching a 50% reduction in emissions during the decade.

Speaking at a webinar jointly organised by Chapter Zero and Willis Towers Watson, Susan Hooper, Chapter Zero steering group member and non-executive director who sits on boards including Uber UK, Wizz Air and Affinity Water, said, “COVID-19 has truly been an eye opener to the disruptive power of extreme events, but remember, there won’t be a vaccine for climate change.”

A poll of the over 150 webinar attendees, comprising mainly non-executive director members of Chapter Zero, found that just over half of the companies on whose boards they serve have so far developed a ‘net zero’ strategy.

Rowan Douglas, head of Willis Towers Watson’s Climate and Resilience Hub, who chaired the webinar, commented, “That result shows that progress in addressing climate risk and resilience is being made in some boardrooms but that there is an urgent need and opportunity to build further momentum across the business spectrum.”  

The directors’ climate forum’s aim is to help directors have high-quality and effective boardroom discussions and debate the impacts of climate change on their businesses and strategic response. That aim is supported by partners such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, noted: “The sooner we act, the lower the cost to our economy and planet. The CBI’s current focus is to learn from companies that have set clear targets and share that experience more widely across our business and industrial community.”

”One positive that I think has come out of COVID-19 is that it has shown the ability of government, the public sector and companies to come together quickly and positively to tackle major challenges, of which decarbonising our economy is clearly one. It has also given us a sense of what everyday, more sustainable life could look like.”