Embracing sustainability is the most important step a business can take to secure its long-term future, but these days, it involves a lot more than just reducing carbon emissions. Here are the major trends set to explode in 2023
Committing to sustainability has suddenly become the biggest and most reliable predictor of long-term business success.
Far from jeopardizing the bottom line, the unstoppable momentum of the net zero bandwagon careering through every major global industry is proving to be an unexpected opportunity for those who’ve happily hopped aboard.
As customers, investors, staff, legislators and those all-important celebrity influencers gang up to demand carbon footprints be significantly downsized, companies not complying with their wishes won’t be companies for much longer.
A third of CEOs polled by the United Nations last year said their investors actively insist that more progress be made on cutting emissions, nearly double the figure from just seven years ago.
“The last time we saw this type of sharp change in priorities was in 2009 during the global financial crisis,” Gartner Fellow Mark Raskino says.
But going green is no longer just about consolidating carbon, it’s about being a better corporate citizen, giving back to communities, using data in ethical ways, repairing ruined ecosystems and prioritizing the wellbeing of your employees.
New trends in futureproofing through sustainability emerge almost every week, but here are the five set to dominate in 2023.
Why should companies invest in pricey green technologies to reach emissions targets when instead they can continue belching out noxious clouds of gas and simply pay someone to plant a nice forest in Eastern Europe?
Their carbon footprint is neatly offset by all that oxygen-producing greenery, and shareholder dividends are safe.
That’s certainly been the playbook for hundreds of major corporations, but, in reality, many offsetting schemes have been exposed as greenwashing scams, with funds diverted to areas already forested and in no danger of being destroyed.
Not only that, but if they are combined all together, the area would be many times bigger than the 500 million hectares around the world deemed suitable for tree planting. Shell alone is promising to reforest 10 percent of that figure!
INDUSTRY TO WATCH: AVIATION
Airlines have relied on offsets more than most, but are now protecting their future in a decarbonizing reality by investing heavily in emerging technologies.
Airbus plans to have the first ever zero-emissions commercial jet airborne by 2035, and Rolls Royce’s joint venture with easyJet spawned the first aircraft engine powered by hydrogen last year, while Boeing is partnering with NASA to develop more fuel-efficient planes.
As authorities crack down on bogus carbon trading and phony offsetting, airlines are upping their game to survive.
The circular economy is all about reusing, repairing and recycling products instead of tossing them in the trash – and it’s very big business.
It could boost global economic output by US$4.5 trillion by the end of the decade and US$25 trillion by 2050, the World Economic Forum estimated last year, so ignoring it could be calamitous. But a depressing number of major businesses are still doggedly sticking to the garbage can route, with waste set to rise by three-quarters worldwide in the next 30 years.
That said, Goldman Sachs predicts circular economics will soar as rising commodity prices force energy efficiencies and corporate pressure for emission reductions grows.
INDUSTRY TO WATCH: FASHION
Textiles account for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, with 92 million metric tons ending up in landfill every year. Clothes are so cheap they’re worn fewer times than ever before, and in the United States, only 13 percent are recycled.
But circular initiatives are beginning to boom, delivering tangible economic benefits. Adidas now sells sneakers that, it says, customers ‘will never own’ as they’re made from just one material so are completely recyclable and could therefore be recycled almost indefinitely.
By 2025, all of the polyester and viscose sourced by Ralph Lauren will be recycled, while 100 percent of its cotton will be from sustainable sources.
Patagonia pioneered the idea of ‘zero waste’ clothes, but acknowledges there’s still a long way to go. “We’re ahead of the pack, but that’s not saying much,” said Patagonia’s Lead Material Developer Ciara Cates. “The bar is low.”
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