Action Guide

Executive Level Responsibility/Buy In

Environmental Defense Fund

As the threat of climate change becomes increasingly urgent, companies around the world are setting net zero targets to reduce their carbon emissions and limit their impact on the environment. However, achieving these targets requires the engagement and alignment of executives across the organization.

Executive buy-in is an important step in coalition building to drive the success of your sustainability initiatives and help you meet your science-based targets. Not only do executives drive strategy at the highest level, but they also determine spending priorities and can galvanize employees when it’s time to act. As you identify key executive stakeholders, it is important to build relationships through shared understanding. Getting executives to take ownership of sustainability issues will require aligning their perspectives and assumptions to the principles of sustainability and its impact on the business.  

Often, part of this process will include education. As the expert at your company, you may need to share what you know with the executive team in a way that aligns to their understanding of the business and presents sustainability as a core part of opportunity capture and risk mitigation across the enterprise. You may also appeal to higher values, such as helping to reduce harm to local communities and building a more resilient world for future generations. 

Here are some strategies for building engagement amongst executives and aligning executive teams to act on sustainability and net zero transition targets: 

Develop a Business Case 

To engage executives around climate change, it is important to demonstrate the business case for these initiatives. This can include highlighting the potential cost savings that can be achieved through energy efficiency measures and optimizing for government incentives. You can also outline the potential benefits, such as a positive brand image, greater competitive advantage, and boosted investor confidence. 

According to the United Nations Global Impact Academy, after setting science-based targets, 79% of executives have seen brand reputation boosted, 55% have gained competitive advantage, 29% have seen bottom-line savings, and 53% of company executives have reported boosted investor confidence. 

Make It a Priority 

To ensure that executives prioritize climate change initiatives, it is important to make these initiatives a key part of the company’s overall strategy. This includes integrating net zero goals into the company’s strategic planning processes and growth. An important step is to integrate sustainability into all aspects of operations, from procurement and supply chain management to product design and customer engagement. This involves identifying opportunities to reduce waste, conserve energy, and minimize the company’s carbon footprint. 

Tying executive compensation to net zero targets can help keep executives focused on actions that are aligned with the company’s objectives. When executive compensation is tied to the achievement of targets, executives become more accountable for their actions. This can help ensure that they take concrete steps towards achieving the company’s net zero goals and demonstrates a company’s commitment to sustainability. 

Incorporate Sustainability Throughout The Company’s Culture  

You should embrace sustainability and the path toward a just and equitable low-carbon future as a key part of your company’s culture and values to remain competitive, protect the environment, and meet the expectations of customers, employees, and stakeholders. One way to embed sustainability into your company culture is to include it in the company’s mission statement and strategic objectives. This sends a clear message to all employees – and potential employees – that sustainability is a core value and an important aspect of the company’s operations and business strategy. And while identifying sustainability as a key component of the company’s culture is a good start, stakeholders and employees will be most engaged when they see follow-through from executives across the business.