SUSTAINABILITY BUSINESS TRENDS TO FOLLOW IN 2023
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With 2023 well on its way, we are seeing the sustainability landscape evolving rapidly, with new trends and emerging themes that are poised to shape the way businesses approach sustainability. The urgency for businesses to prioritize sustainability is higher than ever before. The impact of climate change and environmental degradation are becoming increasingly apparent, and consumers are demanding that companies take responsibility for their actions.
“The triple bottom line is about more than just profit. It’s about creating sustainable value for society and the environment.” – John Elkington
More importantly, there is a progression in understanding of what sustainability actually entails beyond just climate adaptation. We can likely guess that climate events will continue to shockingly surprise us, and their impacts across our lives, economics, and business operations will be deeply felt.
I capture some of the major sustainability trends that are likely to dominate the sustainability discourse in the coming year - they are diverse and complex and this is just a brief mention of them. How can we utilize these to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to strategic sustainability and meet the diverse expectations stakeholders have beyond profit?
ESG is here to stay but it will continue to face mounting criticism. With its roots in the world of finance, the framework has taken a deep hold in our world and has taken an interesting stronghold as a central piece of discourse in partisan politics. Regardless of where you stand on its efficiency is has enabled awareness beyond any other framework or word in the world of business. And businesses are finally listening.
Capital will continue to flow to climate solutions - be it energy, water, agriculture, or health. We will continue seeing this trend, as more players establish funds and redirect funding to climate solutions vs others. We anticipate private capital flowing to see more funding flowing from various government bodies to bolster and boost funding.
Greenwashing will be hit hard, and not only by public or consumer callouts. But by regulators setting the example, with climate ‘bullshitters’ being held to their slippery words across many different regions. The times of lofty commitments with no backing are over. Read more about how this will affect companies in Canada.
Closing the sustainability skills gap will become top of mind. With the snowball effect of sustainability awareness and efforts, the gaping hole is the skills gap that exists all across industries and businesses. Companies will, if they have not done so already, recognize this as a major roadblock to incorporating sustainability broadly across their business. We are already seeing momentum at the post-secondary level and at larger companies like Microsoft (3K trained) to reskill their talent for meeting the sustainability requirements of the future - or of the now.
Solid data and evidence-based decision-making will lead the way to more sound decisions that align with sustainability strategies and ESG requirements. We know this will be important internally for planning and growth but also externally for public perception, avoiding greenwashing, complying with regulations, and a stronger desire from the public for companies to be accountable for their decision-making.
ESG regulations will continue their path from ‘soft law to hard law’ throughout major regions like the US, UK, and EU (and someday Canada). What will come with that too is the complexity of the application of those regulations and planning on the part of companies to meet the expanding ESG requirements and regulations across potentially multiple regions and regulatory frameworks. More complex and longer supply chains and stakeholder networks will represent a potential nightmare for companies if they don’t take sustainability mapping and planning seriously. Do you know how this will affect your company?
Indigenous innovation will continue to grow and be amplified - if you are not paying attention. Start paying attention. Indigenous innovation is all around us, indigenous knowledge, history, and ways of being can and should have a profound influence on our lives, technology, and our path to sustainability. I anticipate more Indigenous work to be highlighted and more importantly included in the discourse around sustainability and climate change.
Definitions, frameworks, standards, and taxonomies will continue to be topics of conversation - for good reason - they are important. It's not an uncomplicated matter. Managing, strategizing, measuring, and yes even reporting on sustainability (the entire breadth of it) is not just a matter of ticking boxes. These will continue to develop over the next year as regulation becomes a reality and clarity will be a necessity.
New technologies - where do they fit in sustainability? New technologies such as AI and Web 3 have the potential to play a significant role in addressing climate change and our adaptation to it. We have yet to leverage their potential for longterm solutions. Data, transparency, efficiencies, marketing, reporting - are just some of the ways that we could utilize new technologies. New tech has seen pretty drastic ups and downs, and it will be interesting to watch who ends the year on a high.
Generation Z will continue to tell us where we are falling short - on their own terms. Let's listen. Their growing purchasing power, demand for sustainability, and tech-savvy nature are likely to spur businesses to prioritize sustainability as a core aspect of their operations, or rather they will demand it. We know that at least 14% of Gen z-ers are seeking jobs that are linked to purpose and ESG demographic.
So how can we utilize these sustainability business trends in our planning? The first step is to be aware of them and the larger context of our activities. Being prepared and proactive in our planning with a sound sustainability strategy and a holistic approach to planning can enable us to be incorporating the elements, impacts, and even opportunities that these sustainability business trends present to us as a business.
What other trends are you keeping an eye on?
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