10 sustainability trends for the new decade

A new report from Veris Strategies highlights what it calls “ten key global trends” that it says are likely to shape the future of sustainability.

‘Think 2030: Ten Trends For Sustainable Business’ predicts that businesses will have to embrace new models of thinking in order to address the risks, opportunities and expectations that are likely to emerge over the next ten years as the climate agenda intensifies.

The report details how businesses will need to look to being “Climate Positive”, not just “Carbon Neutral”, how consumer demand from the rise of Generation Z will affect change, higher consumer expectations on food quality and how technology affects the landscape.

One of the key trends highlighted in the report is that businesses are to be judged on performance against external goals such as those set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and The Paris Agreement rather than internal goals.

As we enter a new decade, we hope this report will give a brief but valuable insight into the top sustainability priorities that business leaders might expect to face over the coming years as they look to crystallise thinking in this area

Though tracking and reporting progress remains a challenge, better metrics will emerge, boardroom buy-in for SDG investment will be easier and scrutiny of both goal setting and goal success will grow, forcing real action.

Kate Cawley, founder of Veris Strategies, said the findings of the report were based on her consultancy’s knowledge of what’s resonating right now with responsible corporations, as well as the wider shifts that are occurring within government, industry and society.

As she says in the report, “It’s worth noting that some of the biggest climate tipping points identified ten years ago are now active. Deforestation, the collapse of major ice sheets and ocean coral reef bleaching are all happening at an alarming rate. Reversing these losses and preventing any further harm to our planet is now business critical.

“As we enter a new decade, we hope this report will give a brief but valuable insight into the top sustainability priorities that business leaders might expect to face over the coming years as they look to crystallise thinking in this area.”

“Radical transparency”

Another key trend will be Radical Transparency, the report suggests, as higher consumer expectations on food quality, integrity and safety have inevitably increased scrutiny of the farm to fork journey.

New levels of disclosure will be necessary as companies work together to build trust back into the food system.

“Spearheading change in this area are companies like Marks and Spencer, who have an online interactive traceability map and fresh meat producer Cranswick, who have created a Radical Transparency report,” Veris says.

Alongside this, given the rise and rise of Generation Z, businesses are also having to rethink how they engage and deliver to a new breed of digital natives who have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

As the tech savviest and most diverse generation yet, businesses will be required to hold themselves to higher standards because transparency, business ethics and prosumer models will be a priority.

The report also states we will likely see the move beyond Net Zero in favour of Climate Positive pledges, with the reliance on carbon offsetting waning in favour of being proactive in areas of identified materiality eg the pulp and paper industry engaging in reforestation and afforestation initiates.

The ability to turn carbon from a liability into an asset will undoubtedly prove to be a “gamechanger”, Veris says.

“A great example of this is IKEA committing to becoming Climate Positive by 2030, with a strategy that includes storing carbon in land, plants and their own products to reduce emissions in absolute terms as well as working with suppliers to reduce their total footprint.”

Other key trends

  • Capping the knee jerk reaction – pragmatic thinking on topics such as plastics and packaging instead of attempting to “speed-solve” issues
  • A systems shift – systems-based thinking will be translated into wide-scale action, giving rise to universal solutions that work, rather than failing isolated fixes
  • Tech for good – businesses will look to harness digital technology to act more responsibly, as machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, the IoT and biotechnology drive change
  • Politics with purpose – as businesses rise to the challenge of sustainability, the need for global governance will become apparent, with governments becoming more progressive in international collective action
  • “The New Citizenship” – pioneers like Greta Thunberg are forcing the world to think about environmental injustice, creating a culture of corporate citizenship that will be a core part of their strategy and identity

‘Think 2030: Ten Trends For Sustainable Business’ by Veris Strategies, is available to download here.

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