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News & Analysis

Australian business leaders “very concerned” about climate change

- January 25, 2022 2 MIN READ
climate change protest
Australian business executives could start taking climate change seriously. Image: AdobeStock

C-level executives in Australia are starting to seriously worry about climate change and the effects on both their business and personal lives, a new survey from Deloitte has found.

Of the Australian respondents to Deloitte’s global 2022 CxO Sustainability Report, 75 per cent said their organisation was “very concerned about climate change” and 95 per cent said their company had already been impact by the effects of climate change – including the operational impact from climate-related disasters and the cost of mitigating against climate change.

Australian executives said they had been personally affected by climate change at a higher rate (89 per cent) than the global average (81 per cent) yet slightly fewer believed there is a “global climate emergency” compared with international counterparts.

Will Symons, Deloitte’s Asia-Pacific Climate and Sustainability Leader, said there remains a discrepancy between Australian business leaders recognising the effects of climate change and understanding how to strategise based on climate-related opportunities.

“Creating value through a climate change response requires a proper understanding of risk and opportunity, developing a holistic strategy, integrating responses into operating models and workforce capability, and monitoring and disclosing performance,” he said.

“Much of corporate Australia is already on this journey.

“However, to avoid dangerous climate change and capture the massive opportunities from the low carbon transition, action needs to significantly accelerate.”

The survey marks a shift in the thinking of Australian C-level executives who are becoming collectively aware of the limited time left to take meaningful climate action.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents agreed that the worst impacts of climate change could be mitigated “with immediate action”, which is up from just 80 per cent in early 2021.

While the number of local business leaders thinking the world is “at a tipping point” in which the future of life on Earth “can go either way” is now up to 74 per cent, up from 52 per cent on the previous survey.

“Perhaps the most significant deficit in the climate agenda is hope – without this, we retreat into what we know and act to minimise risk when we should be innovating and investing,” Symons said.

“Now we need to translate this hope and recognition of the need to respond into concrete action.”

Somewhat cynically, the most common positive of sustainability efforts reported by Australian C-level executives was a boost to employee morale.

That came in just ahead of an improvement to brand reputation and the benefit of actually addressing climate change which were tied for second place.

Nearly half of global respondents picked “brand recognition and reputation” as their biggest benefit for enacting sustainability projects.