Net zero paralysis hits as companies reportedly ‘greenstalling’

One in four businesses are suffering from ‘analysis paralysis’ around net zero targets- fearing they will face criticism of their climate action, or even greenwashing claims.
May 8, 2024

Companies risk falling into a state of limbo as a result of ‘greenstalling’

The Carbon Trust has warned that companies are suffering from what they describe as ‘greenstalling’, with net zero progress effectively paralysed. The new report, Breaking business barriers to Net Zero, found that whilst an increasing number of companies are setting net zero goals, the transformation required to achieve these targets is not being incorporated into ‘business-as-usual’.  

As the latest update to the Oxford University-led Net Zero Tracker found, Net zero is now viewed as a corporate norm, with almost two-thirds (65%) of the annual revenue of the world’s largest 2000 companies covered by a net zero target[i].

However, Carbon Trust’s new report suggests businesses are struggling to move forward from the target setting phase, and instead ending up in a state of limbo, which the researchers label as ‘greenstalling’. Essentially the term refers to companies delaying climate action due to uncertainty around how to progress decarbonisation efforts, as well as fear they will get it wrong and face criticism, or even greenwashing claims.

Carbon Trust’s study interviewed 400 sustainability decision makers at large businesses (all with more than 500 employees), with the sample drawn from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Mexico. It revealed that just over 1 in 4 companies (26%) are avoiding taking climate action due to the fear of being called out for getting their work wrong. In addition, the research found that 80% of respondents view regulation of net zero communications as a concern for their business, while 79% agreed that greenwashing poses a major reputational risk.

Simon Retallack, Director of the Carbon Trust’s Net Zero Intelligence Unit said:

“It is no surprise that some businesses are nervous about how their actions to address climate change will be judged. However, that mustn’t stop them. Net Zero is all about actively reducing emissions from businesses and their supply chains, and we know the best thing businesses can do is get started on that journey today by creating a credible transition plan and implementing it."[ii]

He added:

“Concerningly, our research reveals that many businesses just starting their climate journeys are caught in a state of paralysis on the best steps to take. It is critical that these businesses know that there is real consensus on corporate climate action, and the most important thing is to get started with credibility, honesty and transparency.”[iii]

How can companies avoid ‘analysis paralysis’

Unsurprisingly, the research from the Carbon Trust urges companies not to sit idle, encouraging them to move out of “analysis paralysis”, where they argue that the “fear of scrutiny cannot be used as a reason not to act”[iv]. In response, they recommended adopting a ‘five-step vision’ plan towards net zero. These measures include working with peers to establish an understanding of what meaningful progress looks like, including viability of business models in a net zero economy. They suggest that a collaborative approach will allow companies to share the challenges faced, as well as opportunities for working together as a sector to overcome them. On communication, the researchers stress that sharing this with honesty and accuracy is key, including being open about challenges and critical success factors.


[i] Net zero targets among world's largest companies… | Net Zero Tracker

[ii] Businesses urgently need to break barriers to Net Zero emissions, with credible transition plans crucial | The Carbon Trust

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Business Barriers Report-Feb 2024.pdf (

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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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