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November 13, 2023

Editor’s note: why businesses must do better on sustainability

Business meeting
Bain’s survey suggests that many companies are prioritising external hiring to address skill gaps over ‘a combination of smart upskilling and cultivating a learning mindset’ (Photo: Dolgachov/Dreamstime)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

More than 60 per cent of businesses are off track to meet their sustainability goals and 75 per cent of business leaders believe they have not embedded sustainability well into their companies, even though consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and the environment, finds a report published by consultants Bain & Company this morning.

Part of the problem seems to be a question of staff, with companies prioritising external hiring to address skill gaps over “a combination of smart upskilling and cultivating a learning mindset”, suggests a recent survey by Bain. 

If you are interested in this subject, Claudia’s recent piece on what ESG job titles reveal about a company’s decarbonisation plans is a great place to start.

Bain highlights four recommendations, which it says can help companies become more sustainable. First, it calls on businesses to devise a “future-proof and flexible strategy” that looks “beyond the typical three-year strategic planning window” and, as well as technology adoption, factors in regulations and consumer behaviour. 

Second, the consultancy urges companies to “get out in front of regulations” and help shape the sustainability policies that will impact business. 

Bain also advises companies to test their sustainability messaging and to learn from the results, and to understand that different consumers have a different understanding of sustainability and may need different products. 

The Visionary CEO’s guide to sustainability” is full of interesting facts and figures, not least, as COP28 looms large – the fact that 24 per cent of companies are apparently not on track to achieve Scope 1 and 2 decarbonisation targets, while 35 per cent are behind on their Scope 3 goals.

Let us know what you think and if you recognise some of the challenges highlighted in the report. Please also share any solutions you have implemented to embed sustainability throughout your company and supply chains.

While international climate summits such as COP28 receive masses of media attention, a similarly important, but much less well publicised, meeting is happening this week at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, to try to advance discussions around an international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution. 

Depending on the outcome, “the treaty could be more significant for the world than the Paris Agreement”, Brussels-based lawyer Vito Buonsante, who is attending the negotiations, told me recently. 

I’ll be keeping an eye on happenings in Nairobi. Do get in touch if you are there and want to comment.

Meanwhile, today we are covering how a survey conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that four in five councillors in English towns and cities support stronger action on air pollution but feel unsupported by the UK government. 

We also examine the guidelines released by Business for Nature, a coalition of more than 85 organisations including the UN Global Compact and the University of Cambridge’s sustainability institute, on how businesses and financial institutions can best draw up a nature strategy and achieve their commitments in this area.

Until tomorrow,


Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views

A service from the Financial Times