The sustainability landscape is evolving thanks to these trends.
The increasing threat of climate change coupled with the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused trends in sustainability to rapidly accelerate, and we’re seeing more and more energy being put into finding lasting solutions to shape our future. The need for systemic change and radical rethinking of how organisations and industries work is being addressed and we’re seeing bold ideas being put into action.
1. Sustainability becomes the “new normal”
Nowadays, it seems that almost everywhere we look, we are seeing sustainable consumer products replacing their traditional counterparts. From food production and fashion to lifestyle products, an undeniable change is on the rise. It’s safe to say that the demand for sustainable products by consumers will make their production mandatory in the next few years. The figures speak for themselves. A 2021 global analysis commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) revealed that the popularity of internet searches for sustainable goods around the world has increased by a staggering 71% in just five years. This report was conducted across 54 nations in the world, both developing and developed. The people have spoken.
2. Transition to a circular economy
Though still in its early stages, this trend is developing fast. As more and more industries start to learn about how they can incorporate the model of production and consumption that involves reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products, the more we’re seeing the transition to a circular economy taking shape. A shining example of a big brand who has made the shift is US clothing company, Patagonia. Other companies, like Umicore – a clean mobility materials and recycling company hailing from Belgium – have also adopted a similar stance in their mission to give new life to used metals. The circular economy is a beautiful idea, and it comes as no surprise that it is inspiring businesses and environmentalists alike. We can’t wait to watch it grow!
3. ESG investments take centre stage
Although socially responsible investing has been on the rise for quite some time, the global pandemic seems to have propelled environment-driven ESG into a whole new bracket. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investments look at the long-term impact on the environment and have become a scorching hot trend. This rising focus is not only compelling businesses to be more open about their environmental impact, it is also answering the age-old question: can one make money while simultaneously making the world a better place? Quite simply, yes. With everybody scrambling to jump aboard the sustainability bandwagon and invest in companies that strive to make the world a better place, global ESG assets are, literally, worth trillions.
4. Climate positivity replaces net-zero
While the term net-zero may be all the rage right now, and we’re seeing incredible efforts from both small businesses and major corporations to achieve this milestone by 2050, we suspect that the end goal is going to overtake this trend. The end goal being climate positive, or carbon negative. This is the ultimate destination from the starting line of climate neutrality, where instead of balancing the amount of greenhouse gas produced to the amount taken away, we are making efforts to remove more greenhouse gases than we emit. This is the only way we are going to ensure a safe climate for future generations, and it’s a more important goal to focus on.
5. Renewable energy is affordable
Gone are the days when fossil fuels are the most cost-effective source of energy. Just in the last decade, the cost of renewable technologies like wind and solar have fallen so significantly that they are undercutting fossil fuels as the world’s cheapest source of energy. According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), of the wind, solar and other renewables that came on stream in 2020, nearly two-thirds (62%) were more economical than the most inexpensive new fossil fuel. This is excellent news for the planet! To put it into perspective, retiring expensive coal plants will not only save emerging economies billions of dollars, it will also stop the emission of about three gigatonnes of CO2 a year! That’s 20% of the reduction in emissions needed by 2030 to avert climate catastrophe.
6. Companies are required by law to be transparent about their climate risks
In order for real progress to be made, companies and organisations need to be transparent about their environmental impacts. The good news is that we’re starting to see a lot more states and cities around the world requiring businesses to report on their emissions and energy use, as well as their social impact. These include greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water usage, and also the environmental impact of products throughout their lifecycle. Poor social and environmental performance could see entire organisations shut down, showing the world that insufficient climate action is no joke. Accountability, credibility and increased transparency is the future of business.
We’re excited beyond belief. Watch this space!