Global Summit 2022

24 hours. 125+ speakers. A global challenge.

As the world’s attention shifted from one significant geopolitical event to the next, the extreme weather events experienced by many throughout 2022 brought the impacts of the changing climate into stark relief and carried a clear message: business can no longer continue as usual.

As more businesses signal readiness to develop robust climate plans, how can boards guide their companies to turn ambition into action?

In October 2022, the Climate Governance Initiative hosted its second annual Global Summit, bringing together more than 125 diverse non-executive directors and other eminent speakers to share their expertise, experiences, and timely reflections on pressing developments across key topics.

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Note: This high-level summary draws takeaways from just some of the 30 sessions held over the 24-hour programme. A wealth of climate governance discussion and experience-sharing from our global Chapters is available in the full session summaries and recordings.

In a format that foregrounded both the global nature of the challenges faced and the Initiative’s international reach, speakers embarked on an ambitious and collaborative 24-hour programme of global and region-specific knowledge and experience-sharing sessions. Starting in the Asia-Pacific region, following the earth’s rotation round to Europe and Africa and on through to the Americas, the Summit represented a unique opportunity for non-executive directors to connect, exchange ideas, and get up-to-speed on the latest thinking in climate governance.

Across three high-level discussions and a range of Chapter-led sessions, the 24-hour Summit addressed the day’s central theme – and the title of the complementary Briefing for Board Directors – ‘Ambition to Action’.

Five key themes emerged across the sessions, which are explored in more detail throughout the report:

  1. Boards have a vital role to play in resolving the global climate challenge
  2. Preparedness is key
  3. Climate needs to be a ‘must-have’ point on board agendas
  4. Collaboration is crucial for success
  5. Support is available to build climate capacity at board level

Hosted by members of the Climate Governance Initiative Governing Board, the three high-level Ambition to Action sessions brought discussions on the clear business benefits to tackling climate change, the vital role board members must play in the necessary transition, and compelling arguments for action.

Board members should be ambitious and ‘stretch’ management to drive change, while remaining conscious that commitments must be followed by actions, said Angeles Poveda-Garcia, Climate Governance Initiative Advisory Board member, in a tone-setting contribution.

The concept of shifting boards’ mindsets on climate-related disclosures from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ recurred throughout the Summit, as did the recommendation to establish whole-board activation and responsibility on climate issues rather than a single assigned (or self-designated) ‘climate director’.

Sessions run by NACD US Climate Initiative, the US Chapter, and the ASEAN Climate Governance Network made clear that a baseline understanding of climate risk and opportunity is a prerequisite for fit-for-future governance and highlighted the importance of board education, capacity building, and exchange on the topics.

Theme 1: Boards have a vital role to play in resolving the global climate challenge.

The Primer on Climate Change: Directors’ Duties and Disclosure Obligations provides an overview of contemporary evidence that climate change presents foreseeable, and in many cases material, financial and systemic risks that affect corporations and their investors.

A session focused on Europe’s energy transition heard panellists discuss the potential for cascading benefits within climate strategy – how addressing one issue can often lead to positive impacts in other areas. As global energy markets continue to manage disruption, the panel shared the same view as many others over the course of the Summit: boards must be adaptable and quick to act, and at the same time prepared for and resilient to risks.

Continuing with a focus on disclosure, a panel session by North American Chapters highlighted how US and Canadian boards need to beat the curve to get ahead of new SEC and CSA climate-related disclosures, as investor interest around the incoming regulations is already high.

A globally applicable theme that emerged from sessions across the three geographical regions was the need for action now – not later. Board directors must begin measuring emissions, developing robust strategies and implementation plans for the steps necessary to future-proof their businesses, economic sectors, and the health of the planet.

As Shai Ganu, Climate Governance Initiative Governing Board member, put it during a keynote session: “don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good,” highlighting how ambition must be followed by decisive action.

Theme 2: Preparedness is key.

New disclosure regulations are coming, new physical and transition risks are emerging, and investor interest in ESG and sustainability strategies is high.

Preparedness is a strategic advantage in a changing world. The Navigating the Climate Disclosure Landscape explainer provides an overview of the evolving and interconnected landscape of climate targets, metrics, reporting standards and frameworks for independent directors and non-executive directors.

Chapter Zero Ukraine and Caucasus and Chapter Zero Poland led a session on how the Principles for Effective Climate Governance can help boards keep sustainability and climate change on the agenda in the face of geopolitical challenges and uncertainty. Discussing the impacts of the war in Ukraine, the panel highlighted that, alongside all other business concerns on a board’s agenda, a focus on climate investment remains vital for future economic growth.

Chapter Zero Mexico called for a reality check on the ability of local small and medium-sized enterprises to fund an effective transition to net zero. Discussing the need for financial contributions from historically high-emitting countries as part of the transition in countries with relatively marginal contributions, the session highlighted how climate leadership is an investment not just in the future of your company, but in entire economies.

Attention to longer-term planning for climate risk and opportunity management was a theme echoed in sessions focusing on real estate, agriculture, water security, and insurance underwriting, with the latter focusing on the significant physical and transitional risks to be understood and managed within the next 20 years.

Boards Impact Forum, the Nordic Chapter, hosted a session on strategic implementation of sustainability within organisations, focusing on the development of long-term vision, value-based leadership, loyalty, and achieving the buy-in on sustainability required from both company owners and the board. The panel agreed that board governance of all companies, including those that are family owned, has evolved over time and will continue to do so. Targets, metrics, and more complex measures like carbon pricing were discussed as useful drivers for effective implementation. 

Theme 3: Climate needs to be a ‘must-have’ point on the agenda for boards

The Principles for Effective Climate Governance is a practical guide for boards containing a set of principles and questions to guide the development of good climate governance.

In a general election year for Brazil, with biodiversity a frequently referenced stakeholder in the race for power, Chapter Zero Brazil brought the country’s contributions to tackling climate change, and the roles of boards in doing so, to life.

In a second region-specific session, focused on board’s roles in advancing proposals and solutions for the sustainable development of the Amazon rainforest, the power of the private sector was brought to the fore. Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, highlighted the diplomatic weight BRICS have in putting pressure on the public sector to drive the regulation required to protect the Amazon.

Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions occurring in the value chain) account for more than 70 percent of many businesses’ carbon footprints. With so much potential for positive impact, representatives from three North American Chapters (NACD US Climate Initiative, Chapter Zero Canada, and Chapter Zero Mexico) sought to address the transportation bottlenecks, political risk, sustainability concerns and trade barriers that challenge effective supply chain decarbonisation in a practical session.

The panel shared thoughts on how the opportunities inherent in doing so, given increasing expectations around ESG performance and stakeholder scrutiny, can provide strategic advantage when it comes to access to capital.

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Heidrick & Struggles hosted three round-table discussions through the Summit. Focused on developing an understanding of how boards are going beyond relying on published ESG reports and are bringing new lenses on strategy based on forward-looking views of how the world is changing and companies should adapt, the insights will contribute to generating inputs for the next edition of the BCG-INSEAD Board ESG Pulse Check.

Theme 4: Collaboration is crucial for success

Measuring and managing carbon emissions is a complex process. Ask your companies who they will partner and collaborate with to drive strategy implementation.

Bringing 24 hours of inspiring and action-focused sessions to a close, Cristián Rodríguez-Chiffelle, Climate Governance Initiative Board member and Karina Litvack, Chairman of the Climate Governance Initiative, delivered their closing remarks.

On harnessing opportunities and beginning to address challenges without delay, Cristián said: “climate change is a global emergency, and it is happening now. Boards have a crucial role to play in the necessary transition. Boards must take a lead on this.”

Karina Litvack said: “If you worry about this issue, if it keeps you up at night, and you sometimes feel overwhelmed about how to convert ambition into action, we hope that with what you’ve heard over these past 24 hours, and with the array of tools the Climate Governance Initiative has developed for you, you’ll have what you need to work with your colleagues, your boards and your management [on these issues].

“We hope you’ll draw inspiration from fellow directors and other experts in our global network to really make a difference, and to enable your companies to position themselves for success in a zero-carbon world.”

Theme 5: Become part of a critical mass of boards motivated to resolve the global climate challenge –join a Chapter

Access resources, attend events, meet peers and share best practices to build the climate capacity of your board and become part of the solution.

Are you ready to lead your businesses through practical steps to accelerate net zero? Launched alongside the Global Summit, Ambition to Action: Briefing for Board Directors summarises the four basic requirements needed for your business to move from ambition to action on climate, with a clear focus on your role as a board director.