In our new survey, investors say they see sustainability as a priority for companies—and one that calls for financial discipline and greater transparency. Their views point to actions that business leaders can take to guide their ESG initiatives.
Economic uncertainty, political upheaval, and environmental and social concerns have left a deep mark on today’s business landscape, affecting consumers and companies alike. In PwC’s Global Investor Survey 2022, we sought to get a picture of how those tensions weigh upon today’s decisions and to gain insights into how this might play out. Our survey probed investors closely on the critical issue of sustainability, with an eye to how the current landscape affects their own priorities, decisions and strategies, as well as their views on how companies are responding.1
Unsurprisingly, we found that investors want companies to keep a sharp focus on innovation and financial performance. They ranked those as their two highest priorities for business, with reduction in greenhouse gas emissions coming lower. Over the next five years, however, investors expect the threats stemming from climate change and cyber (including hacking and disinformation) to rise considerably. They also see room for companies to become more effective both at managing climate change and innovation and at reporting on these efforts.
Investors signalled potential remedies as well. Financial discipline is part of this mix, with seven in ten investors saying companies should report on sustainability’s relevance to strategy, the cost of meeting sustainability commitments (including climate goals), and the effects that sustainability risks and opportunities have on assumptions behind the financial statements. Crucial, too, is increased reliability of reported information. Investors clearly want to place more trust in what’s reported: a large majority (87%) suspect that corporate disclosures contain some greenwashing. External assurance, many say, would boost their confidence in sustainability reports.