Net Zero…ESG…SDG…No Planet B – there is no shortage of acronym-laden hooks to hang strategic intent around sustainability on. In all these, though, the message is clear – it’s time for everyone to move beyond the slide deck and into decisive, measurable and urgent action.

It can be hard to think as far as 2030 when we’re still building back from coronavirus and anticipating a potential future sting from Brexit; but the future isn’t fixed, it’s made – and it’s great directors and boards that can be the difference.

The benefits to business of pursuing a net-zero agenda are well rehearsed. There are still economic theory skirmishes and fundamental political choices to be made around the how – but there are few directors sitting around any boardroom table who would deny both the imperative and the opportunity.

So we know that cutting emissions can save money for businesses, and embracing steps now can help get ahead of the changes that will be coming down the line; for example, by 2030 petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK will no longer be available new, while zero-emission vehicles could support 40,000 jobs. Just last week we saw a commitment by two large organisations to start manufacturing batteries for cars and a commitment to building electric vans in the UK.

But we can’t deny some of the choices to be made will be tough – where brave, bold and visionary leadership will be key to unlocking a positive future. Board members and directors don’t need to be experts in heating grid technology or the latest innovations in vertical farming and biodiversity, but they do need to take personal and professional responsibility in knowing which questions to ask and what information they need from their executive teams to make the best decisions possible.

We are witnessing a shift, from the decades when too many businesses (but not all) focused on maximising profits for the benefit of shareholders, and paid CSR programmes minimal heed. Now, the boardroom buzz is around a deeper understanding of shared values and purpose with stakeholders and shareholders – planet as well as profit, staff, communities, customers and the supply chain united. It is a purpose-driven mindset that redefines success from being the best in the world to being the best for the world. Many studies show that purpose-driven organisations outperform profit-maximisation businesses. Clearly, doing good is good business.

Support and access to resources which help build competence and capacity to deliver at all levels of business will be vital. In a recent poll of more than 700 UK IoD members, four in five directors told us that it is important for their organisation to operate in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. However, only one in four members feel they fully understand the way in which their organisation can lower its carbon footprint and meet net zero carbon goals. Additionally, a third of members feel that the costs associated with moving towards net-zero goals in their organisation are prohibitive.

It’s possible to be honest about where we all are now, without compromising on our determination to get where we need to. Collaboration, learning across the boundaries of sectors, will help us to realise the ambitions and benefits of the “wellbeing economy” to deliver social justice on a healthy planet.

As business leaders, it’s up to us to raise our game on asking the fundamental questions needed to shift from theory to action. The good news is that’s what innovative and solution-focused businesses in communities across Scotland do every day…because there really is no Planet B.

Louise Macdonald is national director of IoD (the Institute of Directors) Scotland