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The Coronavirus pandemic has sparked a renewed peak of the sustainability agenda in both the public sector and the corporate world. While there are many areas where global action is taking place, we have combined a list of five key trends affecting the sustainability agenda today and going forward.
Today, for companies it is no longer enough to deliver profits and create value for their shareholders. The need is rising to make a difference in tackling the critical challenges our environment and society are facing. As a result, sustainability is incorporated in companies’ strategies and goals is driving corporate climate action trends beyond 2020.
Companies are striving to reduce their carbon emissions by adjusting their production processes, optimising their energy efficiency and offsetting their carbon footprint. According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry: Sustainability survey, fielded in June 2020, more than 40% of all the respondents globally are planning investments in various sustainability-related initiatives in their company, with waste and recycling being at the top of the potential future investment lists.
Companies Planning to Invest in Sustainability Areas
Source: Euromonitor International, Voice of the Industry: Sustainability 2020 Survey (June, 2020)
In 2018, China’s ban on plastic waste importation exacerbated the mounting waste problem across the globe. While countries are creating a recycling infrastructure to deal with the situation, moving away from a linear economy towards a Circular Economy is becoming an important trend going forward. Moreover, businesses are changing outdated production models and start-ups are employing new technologies to tackle the looming waste pollution issue. Producers are increasingly implementing a circular design process that considers the full lifecycle of every material and product.
Existing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes in packaging and electronics industries, as a policy tool, are already holding manufacturers accountable for the end-of-life impacts of their products. According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry Survey, 62.7% of respondents indicated responsible consumption and production as part of companies’ engagement in the Sustainable Development Goals agenda and 36.1% named sustainable cities and communities another important goal they are working towards.
Sustainable and smart food sourcing is another vital trend of the future. As agricultural activity intensifies to feed a growing global population, New Age/Regenerative agriculture is among the key sustainability trends going forward.
The backbone of regenerative agriculture is a focus on strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. Regenerative farming practices are also important in linking soil conservation to the food security of a country. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), sustainable soil management can help increase a country’s food production by 58%.
As farmers have started understanding the value of productive soil, tools such as no-till, cover crops, soil amendments, and others are increasingly gaining popularity in farming circles. Furthermore, healthy soil also contributes to carbon emissions reduction. New Age agriculture includes farmers going beyond just providing sustainable agricultural produce, but also taking care of ecosystems that have been adversely affected by agriculture.
According to the UN, in 2019 over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. Water resources are important to both society and ecosystems. The Global Water Institute predicts that 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. As we depend on a reliable, clean supply of drinking water to sustain our health and wellbeing, intensifying water demand is putting immense pressure on water resources.
Growing water consumption will also be exacerbated by climate change. As a result, technological solution to ensure clean water supply will remain among the key sustainability trends in the future. Infrastructure renewal to ensure water saving, smart water metering, smart agricultural irrigation systems, together with renewed industrial wastewater treatment and recycling will become the key focus areas for governments and companies worldwide. Utility providers and water companies are increasingly turning to digital solutions to help address key water issues such as water quality, affordability, leakage and water supply risk.
Biodiversity is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, having a grave impact on the livelihoods of communities around the world. High land use, accelerating climate change, invasive species, overexploitation of oceans and seas, along with rising pollution are among the key drivers of the biodiversity decline around the globe.
Safe habitat space and adequate area protection becomes one of the most important topics to prevent further degradation of wildlife on land and in oceans. The world currently protects 15% of land and 7% of the oceans, which is expected to increase as governments are including biodiversity preservation in their future sustainability agendas.
Number of Threatened Species Globally 2014/2019