New UNDP Study Examines the Low-carbon Actions of Enterprises in China

November 7, 2022


Shanghai, Nov 6 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released the key findings for a new study today at a pre-launch event in Shanghai on the margins of the China International Import Expo (CIIE), looking at the actions that enterprises in China are taking to transition to a low carbon future.

The report is the third in the annual Business and Sustainability in China series produced in partnership with PwC and the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC). Since 2020, the series has examined the private sector’s awareness of and contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The latest study entitled Tracking the Low-Carbon Transition of Enterprises in China utilized a combination of online questionnaires and in-depth interviews to provide insight and analysis on the emissions reduction activities of enterprises operating in China across a range of different sectors, as well as case studies, and recommendations on how companies can accelerate their low-carbon transitions.

“It is critical for the Chinese business community to participate in global sustainable development on a broader scale, in broader fields and on a higher level," said Ren Hongbin, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and CCOIC.

According to the report, 55.5 percent of surveyed enterprises are working to implement carbon emissions reduction measures and 61 percent have included the topic of low-carbon transition in their board discussions. These actions come in the context of China’s continued push to advance progress on its 2030/2060 carbon peaking and neutrality targets, which 86.7 percent of enterprises cited as having an impact on how they operate. This includes 44.5 percent which consider the impact of the dual carbon goals as “significant”.

“This report comes at a crucial time with only 8 years left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Callum Douglas, PwC China Corporate Sustainability Director. “Through their low-carbon transition actions, enterprises in China have an opportunity to play a leading role in both domestic and global efforts to meet emissions reduction targets, tackle climate change and realize the SDGs.”

At the same time, only 30.3 percent of enterprises have actually set clear carbon targets, indicating a continuing gap between action and ambition. Challenges which enterprises face in reducing emissions include high costs, a lack of industry standards and guidelines, insufficient carbon accounting capacity, and limited policy support including economic incentives.

This year’s report also includes a special focus on the participation of women in the low-carbon transition of enterprises. Research has shown that there is often an inverse correlation between the number of female managers within an enterprise and its amount of carbon emissions.

Despite this, in 2021, there were only 62 women for every 100 men considered green talent – those possessing knowledge and skills that can help accelerate a low-carbon transition. The key findings of the report suggest that many companies are not aware of the implications of gender equality on their carbon footprint with SDG 5 (gender equality) ranking sixth from the bottom of SDGs in terms of priority for surveyed enterprises. Survey data also shows that there are few initiatives from enterprises’ executive levels dedicated to encouraging female employees to participate in a low-carbon transition.

The report recommends that business leaders, as well as policy makers, increase their understanding of the structural barriers women face in participating in the low-carbon transition and identify measures and initiatives to progress gender equality across enterprises, and supply-chains. These include equitable access to employment opportunities and protections, and support for childcare and other domestic and care work.

“The involvement of women is critical to ensure a low-carbon transition that is not just inclusive, but also as effective as possible,” said James George, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in China. “In the fight against climate change, we cannot afford to exclude the potential for anyone to contribute due to their gender.”