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Employers eyeing people-focused efforts to help achieve climate goals

One in three employers say executive pay should be linked to climate strategy, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

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November 4, 2021

ARLINGTON, VA, November 4, 2021 — With the UN Climate Change Conference underway and efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions gaining momentum, North American employers are now focusing on people-oriented interventions to help achieve climate goals, according to a survey by leading global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW).

The HR and Climate Strategy Survey found nearly half (46%) of employers expect their employees to play a role in the delivery of climate strategy. Moreover, a third (33%) agree that executive compensation should be tied to delivery of climate strategy, while 81% say it’s important to integrate climate strategy in their employee value proposition.

The survey identified several people-related interventions in connection with climate change. These include:

  • More than one-third of respondents (34%) have placed, started to place or are considering placing a chief sustainability or environmental officer on the executive committee; another 27% may consider doing so in the future.
  • More than six in 10 respondents (62%) have implemented, started to implement or are considering new specific climate-related teams or roles; another 13% may consider these in the future.
  • More than four in 10 employers (43%) have implemented, started to implement or are considering climate metrics for their executive incentive plans; another 27% may consider these for the future.
  • Over half of respondents (53%) have implemented, started to implement or are considering employee engagement and listening activities to understand employee attitudes on climate; another 21% may consider these for the future.

“Starting with a push to achieve net-zero emissions, employers are now taking steps to embed climate actions throughout their organizations,” said Shankar Raman, senior director, Human Capital and Benefits, Willis Towers Watson. “Engaging employees and executives in efforts to achieve climate goals is challenging but critical. Now, Human Resources must recognize they can and need to play a pivotal role in helping companies reduce their carbon footprint.”

Indeed, almost half of respondents (46%) described their Human Resources function as being minimally involved in delivering their climate strategy. Among those, 70% have no plans to involve Human Resources in the future.

The survey, however, did find many companies are making progress with their climate efforts. More than four in 10 respondents (43%) are currently developing environmental and climate strategy objectives. Over a quarter (28%) have a clearly defined strategy to address environmental and climate risk priorities, while only 28% have quantifiable targets to address these risk priorities and are already measuring achievement against them. More than a quarter of respondents (27%) are exploring how to address environmental and climate issues, and a similar percentage have communicated a road map to achieve their goals to employees.

“Addressing environmental and climate issues makes good business sense. It can enable companies to improve efficiency, unlock new sources of value and attract the talent they need in this tight talent market. As more companies join the fight against climate change, it’s imperative that they develop an overall climate strategy, communicate clearly and empower the right people to take action,” said Raman.

About the survey

The HR and Climate Strategy Survey was conducted online in September 2021. A total of 93 North American companies with over 1.1 million employees participated.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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