How Board Oversight Can Drive Climate and Sustainability Performance

The authors present persuasive evidence in their recent article that board leadership is essential for solving critical sustainability issues like climate change. As fiduciaries to investors and stewards of a company’s performance and success, corporate directors have a critical role to play in providing oversight of material risks to corporate strategy and performance, especially those posed by climate change.

Drawing upon a report by Ceres and KKS Advisors, the authors show that perhaps most important among best practices for companies intent on establishing effective board governance are the creation of formal board mandates for sustainability, the recruitment of directors with sustainability expertise, and the linking of executive pay to sustainability performance. The authors’ study also provides compelling evidence that when companies put in place such governance features, their sustainability performance improves notably. The international banking group BNP Paribas and the electric utility Iberdrola are held up as illustrations of governance systems that are likely to be effective in helping companies respond to climate change.