Almost 80% of financial firms plan to hit net-zero emissions targets

Compliance survey shows strong commitment to net zero in financial services sector

Organisations within the Irish financial services sector are strongly committed to achieving "net zero" carbon emissions, with 79 per cent planning to achieve that target, according to a Compliance Institute survey – though one in five "have no plans" to do so.

Almost four in 10 have a target date in mind, with 24 per cent saying net zero will be achieved by 2030 – well ahead of Ireland’s national target of 2050 at the latest – while 13 per cent say this should be achieved by 2040 or 2050.

These are among findings of the latest survey from the Compliance Institute, the professional body for compliance professionals.

Conducted among 166 organisations, comprised chiefly of compliance leaders in large financial organisations around the country, it sought to gain an insight into climate commitments, notably steps taken and planned within Irish workplaces towards becoming more eco-friendly.

"Overall, I think these findings can be viewed in a positive light – net zero is certainly on the corporate agenda," said Compliance Institute chief executive Michael Kavanagh.

Sweeping changes

“Ten years ago, I don’t think we would have seen 79 per cent of respondents saying that their company had plans to commit to sweeping changes in their business practices for environmental reasons. Today, not only is it on the agenda, but many organisations have already taken action.”

The survey provides indication of how far Irish financial organisations are on their “green transition”, he added, and whether they have established a protocol for achieving net zero, where the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere is zero.

“More than six in 10 organisations [65 per cent] have developed, or are currently developing, their net-zero strategy, and three in 10 organisations have made moves to implement this strategy. Even the one in five who say they don’t have a dedicated net-zero plan have actually introduced measures to become more environmentally friendly,” Mr Kavanagh added.

Some are further down the track than others and that is to be expected, he said. “In the context of the raft of unprecedented challenges that businesses have had to face in the last two years, it’s understandable that some have had to place their climate change objectives on the backburner somewhat.”

But with the pandemic easing, it looked as if greater attention will turn back to addressing climate change within the corporate sector, he said. In the context of Ireland’s climate action plan for taking decisive action to achieving a 51 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, “change is inevitable, maintaining the status quo is not an option”, he said.

Roadmap

“The 2021 plan is ultimately a roadmap for us, as a country, towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. All organisations, regardless of structure, size or sector, will have to play a role in this – every sector must adapt,” he pointed out.

The move towards a green, low-carbon economy is redefining focus for business, and the need to curb climate change and environmental degradation has placed sustainability at the heart of new growth and development, Mr Kavanagh said. Associated demand for greener processes and products from consumers had also brought about new economic and financial imperatives to keep pace with the rate of change.

In that light, “businesses have little alternative but to commit to the wider global commitment to net zero if they want to avoid being left behind in the race to meet changing market and consumer demands”, he believed.