Say/Do Divide

Are UK organizations ready to meet net-zero targets, or are they at risk of greenwashing accusations?


UK Insights Introduction     All Local Insights     Global Insights


In the countdown to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, there was no shortage of organizations making pledges to become more sustainable or meet net-zero targets. The challenge is now for leaders to translate their promises into action.  

Governments, investors, society and the media are watching closely. Notably, the Treasury is considering rules that would force businesses to share detailed plans of how they will hit net-zero targets. The changes are expected to come into effect by 2023. Meanwhile, a new International Sustainability Standards Boards (ISSB) was unveiled at COP26, which aims to replace voluntary disclosure practices with global sustainability reporting standards.

The UK government’s move to enshrine net-zero targets in law—the first major economy to do so—has led to a host of green commitments. As of November 2021, 60 FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, which aims to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Collectively, these firms represent a market capital of more than £1 trillion.

Our research indicates that UK businesses have some way to go to fulfill their green promises, revealing a significant gap between what executives are saying they are doing on environmental sustainability and what employees see them doing. While 75% of UK C-suite leaders say their organization is doing all it can to reduce its impact on climate change, just 51% of employees agree. And while 67% of leaders say their organization puts the same importance on environmental sustainability as it does on making profits, just 43% of employees say the same.

Thinking about your employer and environmental issues, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? (UK)

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This Say/Do Divide has two possible dimensions: Leaders are either overstating their commitment to sustainability, or they are not properly engaging their workforce in their efforts. C-suite leaders must make an honest appraisal of which factor is at play at their organization.



Action Items

  • Ensure your board and executive team have a shared understanding of the societal, environmental and economic megatrends that will impact your business strategy. 

  • Understand the top social, environmental and economic issues your employees care about—at both a societal and organizational level. Elevating the HR function and investing in culture analytics will be a critical way to engage employees on these topics.

  • Focus on “people first” company messaging. Connect the dots between macro and micro issues to explain how organizational practices and priorities support employee outcomes. 



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