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THE MOST EXTENSIVE REVIEW OF THE STRATEGIC FOCUS OF FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES TO DATE

The climate crisis is undoubtedly the most critical question of our lifetime, and it is not an overstatement that it is top of mind of all humans, except “climate change deniers”.

As a sustainable organisation, we were cautiously optimistic by all the pre-coronavirus activity and media coverage aimed at the importance of combating climate change. Particularly exciting was the annual open letter from the hugely influential BlackRock CEO Larry Fink to business leaders, positioning climate change as a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects as well as outlining BlackRock’s commitment to sustainable investing.

Transparency & Accountability

The problems we face are a result of exactly those business leaders, that have prioritized revenue and profit over sustainability for a long time. Scientists have reached a consensus on the fact that fundamental change is required. The purpose of this study is to increase transparency and accountability for the biggest companies of our time since they are vital stakeholders. The results are statistically significant; each company is cross-checked.

Companies on the Fortune500 list are the largest in the US. These organisations are the engine of the US economy, equating to $13.7 trillion in combined revenue and $1.1trillion in profits. The total number of people they employ is 28.7million- roughly the population of Venezuela!

Green goals

We trawled through every company’s strategic goals to look for climate related objectives. From the the 500 companies, there were a total of 1747 separate goals. Only a mere 106 of those, or 6%, sought to address climate change. This was distributed across 89 companies, or 18%.

Overwhelmingly, phraseology surrounding ‘profit’, ‘customer’ and ‘growth’ eclipsed climate ‘climate’ and ‘carbon’. Despite the warnings, it turns out that revenue, profit and cost-cutting are still 592 times more important than a healthy climate on earth. 

 

THE FORTUNE 500 ARE
THE ENGINE OF THE
US ECONOMY...

  • … but in terms of the CEO gender split they have a long way to go.

    93%

    Male

    7%

    Female
  • ... and of the 89 companies with climate goals, only 3 have female CEO’s

    97%

    Male

    9%

    Female
  • Current CEO tenure compared to predecessor, in average

    CURRENT CEO

    6.36YEARS

    PREVIOUS CEO

    11.62 YEARS

TOTAL REVENUE

$13.7 trillion

TOTAL PROFIT

$1.1 trillion

TOTAL NO. OF EMPLOYEES

28.7 million

VERY FEW COMPANIES HAVE CHANGED DIRECTION

30 HAVE +25% CLIMATE-CHANGE RELATED GOALS IN THEIR STRATEGIES

Popular strategy phrases

WHAT’S COMMUNICATED
TO STAKEHOLDERS IS
SAME OLD - SAME OLD

We have clustered words with similar meanings
Fortune 500 Strategic goal timelines

THE TIMELINE AND
THE ACCOUNTABILITY GAP

Companies with timelines
attached to their strategies

The average timeline for overall goals

2021

The average timeline for climate change goals

2023

"Climate change is on everyone’s lips. 7.6 million went on strike for the climate on September 30. I thought that we all were touched and that transformation was happening at full speed. This study confirms that I was incorrect. Revenue, profit and cost-cutting are still 592 times more important than a healthy climate on earth. I genuinely believe these companies are wrong."

Anders Ankarlid

CEO and Founder
A Good Company

 

More needs to be done

It’s evident from these results that more needs to be done to convince CEOs and executive teams to refocus their strategies toward achieving environmental goals. Instead, they continue to place short-term profit ahead of long-term sustainable strategies. This goes against the mounting evidence and advice from seasoned investors like Fink, who suggest that investing now will pay dividends in the future.

These men and women won’t be at the helm when the metaphorical storm clouds burst, so we need to somehow instil the idea of legacy and how they wish to be remembered, as well as that increasingly they’ll find themselves left behind.

Coronavirus and its impact

Unfortunately, a global recession as a result of the Coronavirus lockdowns could also slow or stall any sustainable projects planned, as this article in the New York Times highlights. Simply, if capital markets lock up, it will be difficult for companies to secure financing for planned sustainable projects, profits will be squeezed and any cash reserves may be needed to remain operational during the downturn.

Hope through a ‘low-carbon’ recovery

But there is hope. Governments around the globe are boosting economies with large stimulus packages. If used correctly, these have the potential to stimulate the economy without losing focus on the essential 2030 and 2050 climate goals.

 

HOW WE DID IT

We have analysed the latest strategy and/or annual report possible from all 500 companies. And cross-checked them twice.

All sources of the reports can be found at:
https://agood.com/pages/fortune-500-facts

 

SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS

We are well aware that every company has tactical plans and also, in many cases do sustainability reports. However, we believe, what is communicated to stakeholders and the public are the most important strategies, ultimately setting the direction and pace of each company’s transformation.

 

Get in touch!

If you have any questions or thoughts on this editorial or on our study, please feel free to reach out to us on ec@agood.com.


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