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Net Zero and Beyond

Net Zero and Beyond

South Pole’s 2022 net zero report

Net Zero and Beyond: A Deep-dive on Climate Leaders and What’s Driving Them

South Pole's 2022 net zero report took a closer look at over 1,200 private companies across 12 countries and 15 sectors with a sustainability or corporate social responsibility lead to get an indication of how some of the more climate-aware companies in the market are progressing (or not) on their net zero journey today.

Among sustainability-minded organisations, the trajectory for net zero is positive: more net zero targets are being set by companies than ever before, with more science-based targets to back them up, and they're being led by more ambitious timelines. And despite the dire global economic outlook, businesses are investing more – not less – in reaching their net zero targets.

However, South Pole's 2022 net zero research also shows that one in four businesses do not plan to talk about their science-aligned climate targets, which points to a surprising new trend: so-called "green-hushing".

Download the report now

Net Zero and Beyond: A Deep-dive on Climate Leaders and What’s Driving Them

South Pole's 2022 net zero report took a closer look at over 1,200 private companies across 12 countries and 15 sectors with a sustainability or corporate social responsibility lead to get an indication of how some of the more climate-aware companies in the market are progressing (or not) on their net zero journey today.

Among sustainability-minded organisations, the trajectory for net zero is positive: more net zero targets are being set by companies than ever before, with more science-based targets to back them up, and they're being led by more ambitious timelines. And despite the dire global economic outlook, businesses are investing more – not less – in reaching their net zero targets.

However, South Pole's 2022 net zero research also shows that one in four businesses do not plan to talk about their science-aligned climate targets, which points to a surprising new trend: so-called "green-hushing".

Why does this matter?

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Many businesses with robust targets are going green & then going dark, potentially giving rise to an emerging practice among companies: "greenhushing"

Not publicising progress makes corporate climate targets harder to scrutinise and limits knowledge-sharing on decarbonisation, potentially leading to less ambitious targets being set, and missed opportunities for industries to collaborate.


To achieve true climate impact, we need a future in which society has the ambition and ability – but also the confidence – to address climate change on the scale that is required. This is impossible if progress happens in silence.

What has changed in 2022?

Leaders are going green – but not publicising progress

Among sustainability-minded organisations, the trajectory for net zero is encouraging: within our sample of 1,200 corporate leaders across 12 countries, setting a net zero goal, science-based reductions milestones (SBTs), and a clear target date has become standard practice across all industries.

Nearly two-thirds of organisations are committing to rapid action by 2030 at the latest, which indicates that organisations are coming to terms with the need for urgent decarbonisation and setting ambitious targets with this in mind.

At the same time, 13% of surveyed organisations have aggressive plans to meet net zero targets by or before 2024, which raises eyebrows and begs the question – do they fully appreciate the magnitude of reducing emissions across all of their direct and indirect operations (scope 1, 2, 3)?

Despite businesses increasingly backing up their targets with science-based emissions reductions milestones, nearly a quarter (23%) have decided not to publicise their milestones beyond what is mandated. This is a concerning trend, as less public-facing communication makes targets harder to scrutinise and could lead to missed opportunities for sectors to work together to decarbonise.

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Net zero budgets are growing, but so are the long-term benefits of investing in climate action

Despite the global economic outlook, the climate-aware businesses surveyed by South Pole are investing more – not less – in reaching their net zero targets. Our survey also suggests that meeting net zero goals, especially ambitious ones, is not only more expensive, but also more difficult than most surveyed organisations anticipated.

74% of surveyed companies increased net zero budgets since December 2021

29% of sustainability leaders said meeting their net zero target is more challenging than expected

With the cost of inaction only set to grow, 2022 is still the cheapest year to get started on net zero.

Brand and operational resilience are top of mind for net zero sustainability-focused organisations

Customer demand for low-carbon goods and services and the opportunity to build corporate brand leadership on net zero are the top drivers for surveyed businesses to set net zero targets – again. However, operational risk is rising higher up the corporate agenda as a reason for companies to move towards net zero. This year, for example,

  • 37% of surveyed businesses were driven to net zero due to the need for better, more granular oversight of and data about supply chain risks
  • 34% of surveyed companies said net zero was key to build resilience against external shocks

Companies are exploring all tools in the climate toolbox to meet net zero

It is abundantly clear that, in the next ten years, the near-term SBTs aligned with a 1.5°C warming scenario need to be achieved by the majority of companies – especially big emitters – if emissions are to be drastically reduced.

The central step on a company's climate journey is to make the most of the critical levers and solutions currently at its disposal in order to decarbonise, whilst proactively planning for the future by financing and adopting new innovations, such as technological carbon removals and sustainable fuels.

South Pole's 2022 net zero research shows that surveyed companies are increasingly turning to new climate technologies alongside solutions for decarbonisation, with solutions like low-carbon hydrogen and technological carbon removals rising up companies' agendas compared to previous years.

With time not on our side and emissions-free operations still far in the future, science also says that companies must invest in decarbonisation activities beyond their direct value chains. Are surveyed businesses missing decisive quick wins to have a true climate impact by neglecting high-quality voluntary carbon offsets?

The climate transition sits mainly with C-suite – but efforts to upskill teams are growing

Most surveyed companies said their net zero transition is led by their CEO, CSO or general C-suite, but the load of net zero is starting to be increasingly shared across organisations:

  • 46% said that multiple departments and a quarter said every department is involved in driving to net zero.

There are also more investments in internal capacity, especially among those who feel like they are off track in meeting net zero targets:

  • 66% of surveyed companies who are falling behind plan aim to upskill their own sustainability teams
  • 59% will invest in internal resources to deliver their net zero strategy

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"We see that the surveyed, sustainability-minded businesses are increasingly backing up their targets with science-based emissions reductions milestones, which is absolutely the right approach. But if a quarter today are not coming forward with details on what makes their target credible, could corporate “green-hushing" be spreading? The speed at which we are overshooting our planetary boundaries is mindblowing. More than ever we need the companies making headway on sustainability to inspire their peers to make a start. This is impossible if progress is happening in silence."

Renat Heuberger, CEO of South Pole

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Net Zero and Beyond

South Pole’s 2022 net zero report

South Pole's 2022 net zero report – based on a survey of over 1,200 sustainability leaders representing 12 countries and 15 sectors – shows that today, one in four businesses do not plan to talk about their science-aligned climate targets.

Read more