There is a need for businesses to show more urgency when it comes to being proactive in setting targets and reducing carbon emissions, Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) has warned.

The warning comes despite a new report showing that more firms are increasing their focus on sustainability and prioritising decarbonisation.

The fifth annual report on the BITCI Low Carbon Pledge, produced by PwC, found that 68 companies have now signed up to the pledge to reduce their carbon emissions by committing to setting Science Based Targets (SBTs) no later than December 2024.

These are spread across 11 sectors, with majority coming from professional services, agribusiness and food and drink.

But despite the progress, BITCI says more action is required on reducing emissions and a greater focus on protecting nature is also required.

"With next year's target only 15 months away, it is imperative that all signatories set their SBTs to ensure that they play a proactive role in decarbonising their operations," said Tomás Sercovich, CEO of BITCI.

"We are running out of time, businesses must be ambitious and challenge themselves and in turn their suppliers, customers, employees and investors to adopt clear, unambiguous decarbonisation pathways towards net zero and nature positive."

Mr Sercovich added that businesses cannot achieve their goals alone.

"Businesses need guidance, financial support and clarity from Government and the EU Commission to guarantee their compliance and action," he claimed.

"COP28 must provide the urgency and action plans necessary to prioritise and accelerate collaborations with businesses to address the climate and nature crises."

The research found that half of pledge signatories have fully set SBTs and had them approved by the Science Based Target Initiative.

Another 31% have committed to setting SBTs, bringing the total commitment to 81%, up 11% on 2022.

Around half of the signatories have also set a net zero science-based target.

But the report says that the fact that a significant number of signatories did not declare a net zero time frame is an indication of the complexity associated with understanding the required pathways to net zero.

Indeed there was only a slight improvement in the number of signatories selecting a timeframe of 2030 or earlier across both scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Only half of signatories have integrated the Irish Government's Climate Action Plan into their sustainability strategy, the report also found.

The survey also found that just 50% of signatories have identified the specific impacts and dependencies on nature for their organisation.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said the 68 companies who have signed the pledge are leading by example.

"The growth and ongoing commitment of pledge signatories demonstrates the power of collective action and the network that is BITCI," he said.

"If we are to address climate change and start to turn the tide on the devastating scenes we have seen across the globe recently, we need to work collectively, across all sectors, including business."