As new climate regulation looms, privately-owned firms are unprepared and ‘severely lagging’ their publicly listed competitors

While many publicly listed firms have set net zero targets, only a fraction of privately held firms have done the same despite incoming climate legislation, meaning these firms risk being unprepared.
April 30, 2024

Privately-owned companies lagging their publicly listed competitors

While many publicly listed firms have set net zero targets, privately held firms are lagging behind with only a fraction of these companies having done the same, despite incoming climate legislation. According to new data from the Net Zero Tracker (NZT), almost half of the 100 largest private companies have not set any emissions targets or net zero goals. Yet more than four fifths (82) of the world's 100 largest public firms have set these targets. Moreover, on net zero specifically, only 40 of the world’s largest 100 private firms have net zero targets, compared with almost three quarters (70 out of 100) of their publicly owned peers. These figures come despite a raft of incoming climate regulation.

John Lang, Project Lead, Net Zero Tracker (The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit), said:

“If ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ for climate inaction, most private firms are operating nocturnally- beyond the glare of the civil scrutiny, investor pressure and disclosure requirements faced by listed companies.”[i]

He went on to add:

“New measures being introduced in regions from the EU, to the US and Singapore- some with extra-territorial dimensions, are changing the rules of the game. What goes on in the EU does not stay in the EU. And what goes on in a regulated public company will not stay in a public company: one company’s indirect emissions are another's direct emissions.”[ii]

Looming regulation changes puts firms at risk

The research ‘A Distinctly Private Pursuit: Not going net zero’ specifically sought to assess firms’ preparedness ahead of the introduction of the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), both of which are set to place further climate auditing requirements on large companies.

A watered-down CSDDD was approved by EU lawmakers in March this year. It means that from 2027, large corporations will have a legal responsibility to ensure their supply chains meet human rights and environmental regulations. Originally, the CSDDD was set to impact companies with 500+ employees and a turnover of €150 million ($163.3 million) or more. However, the now much-changed legislation will only impact companies with 1,000 or more employees, and turnover in excess of €450 million ($489.9 million)[iii].

The revised deal also removes a sector approach which would have seen companies in ‘high-risk’ industries or segments included within the legislation, even if they didn’t fall within the employee or income parameters. The changes mean that the number of impacted companies will be roughly 30% of those set to be impacted the original scope- this translates to circa 5,500 companies[iv]. You can read more about the CSDDD here: 

A slim-lined CSDDD has finally been approved, but what does this mean for businesses operating in the EU? (

However, NZT’s research finds that ahead of the CSDDD, just 8 of the 40 private firms with net zero targets have plans in place to deliver on them. Further, of the 100 private companies studied, 23 are EU-based, and two of these 23 firms have not set any emissions reduction targets whatsoever, these are: E.Leclerc, the French hypermarket chain, and Mercadona, the Spanish supermarket chain.

Beyond the incoming EU regulation, NZT acknowledges that the direction of travel is towards increasing climate regulation, highlighting California’s Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act in particular. Despite this trend, overall, only 52 of the 100 largest private firms have set a net zero or emissions reduction target, with the 48 private firms operating without targets collectively seeing annual revenues of $1.7 trillion. These findings come despite the fact that net zero targets now cover 90 percent of the global economy, and that major economies have set binding net zero targets for the coming decades.


[i] Privately-owned firms unprepared for incoming… | Net Zero Tracker

[ii] Ibid

[iii] After Delays, EU Approves Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Law (

[iv] A slim-lined CSDDD has finally been approved, but what does this mean for businesses operating in the EU? (

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Lauren Foye
Head of Reports

Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”

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