UK companies lead accelerating pledge to net-zero

Corporate commitments to net-zero have accelerated over the last two years, with almost one-third (30 per cent) of Europe’s largest listed companies now having pledged to reach net-zero by 2050.

The figures come from a study by Accenture, Reaching Net Zero by 2050, that analysed data from more than 1,000 listed companies across Europe’s major stock indexes. Companies listed in the UK were the most likely to have set a net-zero target date, covering scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, with 37 per cent having done so, compared with 27 per cent in Germany and 18 per cent in France.

The average net-zero target year for European companies included in the study is 2043. Many companies in carbon-intensive industries — such as oil and gas and chemicals — have set net-zero target dates of or close to 2050, while many in services sectors aim for around 2035.

“The European business community is more engaged than ever in the race to zero, with the number of companies publicly setting goals having grown over the last two years,” said Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO of Accenture in Europe. “And as our study shows, the targets work. Net-zero should be managed as any strategic business priority: set clear objectives to drive the entire organization to the same direction and monitor progress to correct the trajectory as appropriate. Making targets public also helps create the required collective momentum, as companies can’t solve it alone.”

However, over all of the contient accelerated action will still be needed as just 5 per cent of European companies are on track to fully meet their net-zero target dates in their own operations, covering scope 1 and 2 emissions, if they continue the pace of emissions reduction that they achieved between 2010 and 2019, with only 9 per cent on course to meet a 2050 target.

“Though the number of newly set targets is reassuring, it is still clear that organisations are not moving fast enough,” said Peter Lacy Accenture’s chief responsibility officer and Sustainability Services global lead. “With COP26 just a few weeks away, businesses and governments across all parts of the world need to focus their efforts on concrete action that follows robust targets to meet the challenge our world faces to reach net-zero by mid-century and hold global warming to 1.5C.”

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