Sustainability: now or never | ING

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April 07, 2021
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As many companies struggle to stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, what has happened to their sustainability ambitions? ING asked companies and investors to find out.

ING research shows that companies have in fact accelerated their green transformation plans and that investors are demanding stricter environmental targets. At the same time, there must be greater transparency on progress and performance and greater accountability to ensure that commitments are met.

This comes from a survey of 450 companies in seven sectors and 100 institutional investors. The findings are published in a new report titled “Now or Never: A New Bar for Sustainability,” which was compiled in partnership with the Financial Times company Longitude.

Here are the headlines.

The bar is high: the Covid-19 is a formidable accelerator of climate action.

The majority of companies (57%) now say they are accelerating green transformation plans. Investors also want companies to put in place stricter environmental goals.

But employee well-being is the most urgent ESG priority for 2021.

A third of companies (33%) prioritize the health and well-being of their employees, even before reducing emissions (30%). It is also a major ESG priority for investors, behind only climate and sustainable supply chains.

Ambition and responsibility are under the microscope like never before.

Investors want more transparency on companies’ sustainable development objectives: 72% of investors say they are increasing their ambitions in terms of ESG results in their portfolios.

More government intervention is expected in certain markets, which could intensify the risk of climate transition.

The majority (61%) of companies in the energy sector expect new government measures, such as carbon taxes, which could accelerate the risk of climate transition. The biggest impact on corporate sustainability plans is expected in the United States under the new administration.

Sustainable finance strengthens accountability and investors say it will accelerate the transition.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of companies say that sustainable finance instruments, such as green bonds or sustainability loans, have improved their ability to put in place strong internal accountability metrics. And 48% of investors believe that sustainable finance will be more effective in driving the transition of carbon-intensive companies; only 26% disagree.

Read the full report here.

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