The time has come for climate competent Board Directors

There is never a dull moment in the board room. The world is changing at an incredible pace and in the midst of the pandemic, global executives are ranking climate change the most serious societal threat to their business over the next decade according to Deloitte, the WEF Risk Report and many other sources.

Mr. Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, has recently said that: “In March, the conventional wisdom was that the crisis divert attention from climate. But just the opposite took place, and the reallocation of capital accelerated even faster than I anticipated”. Investors in mutual funds and exchange traded funds poured 288 bn USD into sustainable assets between January and November last year, Mr. Fink said, which is nearly double the sum for all 2019. And according to the Blackrock CEO, there is no company whose business model won’t be profoundly affected by the transition to a net zero economy.

Clearly, sustainable business – and as part of that climate action – has become a deeply strategic business issue that needs the attention of the Board. But are Board Directors prepared for these discussions? According to a new study from New York University’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business, only 3% of the 1,188 board directors in the 100 largest US companies had climate expertise, whereas 6% had broader ESG experience. Let’s hope that these numbers look better in the Nordic region. But at a time of ballooning investor demand for climate action and important investments on the table to reach Net Zero emission targets in many board rooms, this is the time to ensure that you are a climate competent board member. According to the Global Board Survey 2020 from Intersearch, increased sustainability/purpose focus is the number one trend to impact the board and the corporate governance agenda in the coming year.

There is plenty of inspiration to tap into, such as the World Economic Forum’s “Principles for Climate Governance”, the UN Global Compact’s “Business Ambition for 1,5 C” or the “Science Based Targets Initiative”. All of this, we will draw on at the new Board Impact Forum which is the Nordic chapter of the Climate Governance Initiative in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

This is, indeed, the time to become climate and ESG competent.

Lise Kingo

NED, former CEO UN Global Compact and Senior Advisory Board member at the Board Impact Forum.

About the Author

Lise Kingo

Lise Kingo is an Independent Board Director, Chair and public speaker.
She is an Independent Board Director at the French, Fortune 500 Company, Sanofi; Chair of the “Blueprint for Denmark” Initiative and member of the Advisory Board for Humanitarian and Development at the Novo Nordisk Foundation in Denmark.
She is a former CEO & Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, a position she held since 2015. The UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative uniting business to create a better world through universal principles and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Lise Kingo began her career in 1986 in business-to-business advertising at JP Bureau in Copenhagen and joined Novo Industries (now Novo Nordisk after the merger with Nordisk Gentofte) in 1988, where she remained for 26 years. She served as Chief of Staff, Executive Vice President and member of the Executive Management team since 2002, where she was instrumental in defining Novo Nordisk's sustainable business strategy. Prior to 2002, she held various positions in NovoZymes, Novo Holding and Novo Nordisk, including internal audit, compliance, people & organization, branding and sustainability.
She is a former visiting professor at the Medical Faculty, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, NL and a longstanding member of HRH Prince of Wales, Cambridge University Advisory Board for Sustainability Leadership, London, UK. She has received numerous awards, most recently the Thomson Reuters Responsible Business Honoree Award 2020.
A native of Denmark, Lise Kingo holds a bachelor's degree in Religions and Ancient Greek Art from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, a bachelor's degree in Marketing and Economics from the Copenhagen Business School and a master's degree in Responsibility & Business from the University of Bath in the UK. Furthermore, Lise Kingo is certified as a director by INSEAD in France. Throughout her career, she has held positions in Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands and the United States.

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