Fortune 500 companies are acting on the climate crisis—but is it enough?

A man working at solar power station

Sixty percent of Fortune 500 companies have set goals to act on the climate crisis and address energy use, yet those ambitions vary dramatically—and are not happening at the speed or scale needed to stave off the worst impacts of a warming planet, according to a new WWF report.

Power Forward 4.0 analyzes climate and energy commitments among the largest US companies, assessing how different sectors compare in setting targets. WWF found that climate and energy-related targets among the largest US companies have risen by 12 percentage points since 2017. Although growth has occurred across the Fortune 500, the largest companies continue to lead the way, with 76% of the Fortune 100 now having at least one commitment—up 13 percentage points.

The number of Fortune 500 companies setting targets that are in line with the latest climate science to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement—has also grown significantly. Sixty-three companies (13%) now have their target approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), six times the number of companies that had done so in 2017. The SBTi is a partnership among WWF, CDP, World Resources Institute, and the United Nations Global Compact which independently validates companies’ targets to ensure they are in line with the latest climate science and has become the gold standard for corporate climate targets. However, even with this growth, only one in five Fortune 500 companies have set or committed to set Science-Based Targets.

The report shows steps in the right direction for renewable energy targets, too. The number of companies making commitments to shift to 100% renewable energy has doubled to 58 since 2017. These targets are the engine that drove US companies to nearly quadruple their renewable electricity contracts in that same timeframe.

The report also documents the growing trend among companies setting net-zero, carbon-neutral, and related commitments. But the report also warns that the lack of standards and inconsistency in ambition, robustness, and timeframe of those targets.

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Additional key findings

1 in 5

The number of Fortune 500 companies that have a climate goal that covers emissions across their value chain.

< 50 %

The percentage of companies in the financial services, fossil fuel, and retail sectors that have set a climate commitment (and few of those are setting their targets in line with science).

> 80 %

The percentage of companies in the apparel, food and beverage, and hospitality sectors that have set a climate or energy target.

While some individual companies are reducing emissions in line with a pathway that limits climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, overall, the private sector is not cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the scale or pace needed.

“More and more companies are setting voluntary climate goals and increasing their climate ambition, however, it’s still not enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change,” said Marcene Mitchell, WWF’s senior vice president for climate change. “This report clearly shows that strong federal, state, and local policy is needed to complement the voluntary actions these leading companies are taking on.”

It’s urgent that we ramp up the pressure to make sure our leaders act at the scale the science demands. Our communities and wildlife are at stake. If we act now, we can avoid catastrophic climate impacts.