UK PLC bullish about the economy, and focussed on climate change and employees, survey finds

London, 8 November 2021 – a survey of FTSE 350 companies out today finds that British boards are optimistic about the economy and much more focussed on climate change than was previously the case. They are also aligned on the importance of employees and corporate culture, according to the report published by The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland in association with the Financial Times.

The key findings of the FTSE 350 Boardroom Bellwether survey, which canvassed the views of the FTSE 350 on the business environment, working environment and key corporate governance issues such as board diversity, regulation, risk and compliance, are as follows:

Economic outlook
Although the survey was conducted before the Chancellor’s autumn budget announcement in October, companies were already optimistic about growth in both the global and UK economy.

  • Global economy: 96% of respondents predict an improvement in global economic conditions; 2% predict a decline and 2% don’t know;
  • UK economy: 79% expect an improvement, 12% predict no change and 4% expect a decline. In addition, 81% predict an improvement, 10% predict no change and 6% predict a slight decline in their specific industry’s economic conditions.

Climate change

  • 28% of companies considering that their overall risk is increasing chose climate change as the major risk factor, ahead of cyber risk (23%), risks linked to the pandemic (17%), global economic risks (14%), geo-political tension (11%), growing trade protectionism (3%) and AI (3%);
  • 96% of companies have discussed climate change in the last year at least once, with the majority (39%) having discussed it two to three times. Just one FTSE 250 had not discussed the issue and one respondent did not know;
  • At the time of the survey, 69% of respondents had published plans to tackle climate change (62% of which were FTSE 100 companies and 39% of which were FTSE 250 companies);
  • 57% of companies had published an ambition to be net zero at the time they were surveyed.

“In the second week of COP26, with organisations increasingly committing to combatting climate change, there is no doubt the business sector has a critical role to play. It is encouraging to see the ambition to achieve net zero in our largest corporate boardrooms. If this is to be kept on track, however, it is essential that boards provide appropriate transparency. This is where good governance has an essential role to play in ensuring companies are delivering on their ambitions and can be held to account.”

(Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at the Institute)


  • Workforce numbers: fewer than a quarter (24%) of companies are planning to increase their workforce in the UK over the next year; 59% have no plans to do so and an additional 14% do not know. Of those companies planning to increase their workforce, 75% are FTSE 250 companies;
  • Office-based working: 86% of companies are planning changes to office-based working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just 6% are not and an additional 8% don’t know;
  • Productivity: 31% of respondents believe that productivity has increased during the pandemic, largely due to travel time being given over to work, increased focus working from home, better use of technology and the benefits of flexible working. However, the majority (57%) believe that productivity has remained the same and an additional 10% think that it has decreased, with lower demand cited as a reason.
  • Workforce voice:
    • 53% of companies have changed their approach to workforce voice over the period of the pandemic. An additional 43% have not, which suggests a level of satisfaction with those methods already in place;
    • 43% of companies have a designated non-executive director to represent workforce interests on the board. Just 2% of respondents have an employee on the board; 8% have a works council or something similar; 20% have something else and 25% have a combination of one of more of the options and/or their own bespoke solution to the issue;
    • the majority (68%) of respondents believe that their boards are more aware of the views of the workforce as a result of efforts to improve workforce voice in the boardroom. An additional 22% are not sure and 8% feel that the board is not more aware. The vast majority (86%) believe that their board is adequately aware of the views of the workforce and has due regard to these views when making decisions. Just 4% think that they are not and an additional 8% are unsure.

Corporate culture

  • 100% of companies have discussed corporate culture in the last year.

- Ends -

For further information, please contact Maria Brookes, Media Relations Manager: 
+44 (0)20 7612 7072
+44 (0)7890 649 143

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland is the professional body for governance and the qualifying and membership body for governance professionals across all sectors. Its purpose under Royal Charter is to lead ‘effective governance and efficient administration of commerce, industry and public affairs’ working with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and providing qualifications, training and guidance. As a lifelong learning partner, the Institute helps governance professionals to achieve their professional goals, providing recognition, community and the voice of its membership.

    One of nine divisions of the global Chartered Governance Institute, which was established 130 years ago, The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland represents members working and studying in the UK and Ireland and in many other countries and regions including the Caribbean, parts of Africa and the Middle East.
  2. The survey was conducted in late summer 2021 and responses were gathered from 51 FTSE 350 companies across a variety of industries.

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