Opening Session: the Evolving Role of Boards in relation to Corporate Climate Action

Date: 23 March 2021

800px World Economic Forum logo svg


World Economic Forum

Opening remarks:

Al Gore, Former Vice President of USA, Cofounder and Chair of Generation Investment Management and Non-executive Director, Apple


  • Angeles Garcia-Poveda, Chair, Legrand
  • Claudio Descalzi, Chief Executive Officer, Eni 
  • Leslie F. Seidman, Non-Executive Director, Moody’s Corp and General Electric and Former Chair, FASB
  • Roberto Marques, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chair, Natura & Co


Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, World Economic Forum

Watch the recording: Opening Session: the Evolving Role of Boards in relation to Corporate Climate Action

The science is clear: climate action within the next decade is critical to stay within the 1.5C trajectory of warming necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions need to fall by 7% every year for the next decade to achieve this. Action on climate change, while previously viewed as a policy issue, is now recognised as an important issue for all actors, including corporate boards, and addressing the climate crisis is one of the biggest business opportunities in recent history. 

In his keynote address at the opening session of the CGI’s Global Summit, former US vice president Al Gore told the audience that, in his opinion, we’re living through a “sustainability revolution, with the scale and magnitude of the industrial revolution, but moving at the speed of the digital revolution”. 

The panel went on to explore the role of boards in accelerating climate action – arguing that boards need to guide companies towards significant emission reductions within the next ten years. Expectations on climate change are increasingly affecting investment decisions, and sustainability factors are key drivers of business and investment performance. Action on climate entails prudent and necessary steps to protect business interest and harness the huge opportunities offered by a zero-carbon future, panellists agreed.

Boards can be highly influential both in communicating the importance of climate action within companies, and in helping companies be more transparent about their intentions, by holding them accountable to clear emissions targets and metrics. Boards can help to push companies to grow, as Roberto Marques executive chair of Natura & Co made clear: “We believe that setting bold (climate) targets will drive innovation and growth”. Collaboration with other businesses, NGOs, and between the public and private sector are essential for accelerating the zero-carbon transition. 

Climate education and awareness are increasing but it needs to continue. And in some cases, such as that of Legrand, the pandemic has been instrumental in getting the climate action ball rolling., it’s chair Angeles Garcia-Poveda explained: “Covid didn’t take away from Legrand’s climate ambition, it accelerated it – it’s not an ‘or’ factor, it’s an ‘and’.”