The need to address concerns such as carbon footprints and biodiversity loss and how people can solve these issues is increasing globally. Fortunately, more and more people and businesses have begun to understand the urgency of the situation and proof of this is the sharp rise in sustainability trends in recent years. This is a clear sign of a growing understanding of the urgent need for solutions.
Sustainability is complex in that it represents both a business opportunity and a survival issue. Moreover, it is a catalyst for consumer obsession and a crucial component of company risk.
Consumers now place high importance on sustainability, and businesses are taking notice. According to a Deloitte analysis of 2021 consumer behavior data, 55% of retail customers had purchased a ‘green’ good or service within the last month. This may not seem too important based on the number of trips to retailers, but the data is more than enough for a wise marketer to see the trend emerging – sustainability will become important for consumers and companies will have to adapt if they want to survive.
And survival in this situation is very real – survival as a business and as a civilization.
However, sustainability trends go well beyond environmental responsibility. Today, companies are also considering improving both the work environment and staff well-being.
We have found that organizations rely on information and technology to achieve these objectives.
Let’s take a closer look at the sustainability trends for the near future.
Trend #1. Eco-friendly products and better working conditions
Organizations are working to increase their transparency because of increased consumer interest in how goods are made. This applies not only to the materials used but also to the labor environment and the treatment of animals.
McKinsey conducted a global analysis of 30 nations and discovered that 28 of these have either established or are in the process of setting up the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to restrict specific materials and emphasize waste management and recycling.
What is EPR?
EPR is an environmental policy that holds manufacturers responsible for the whole life cycle of the items they offer to the market. The best example is that of a lithium battery – the producer will not only put the battery on the market but also help distributors to establish a network of collection, safe handling processes, and recycling.
Trend #2. Improved delivery and decreased carbon emissions
During the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce showed a drastic increase, leading to more delivery vehicles hitting the streets which in turn led to an increase in the volume of CO2 emissions. This situation not only generated increasing costs but also forced industry executives to look for more eco-friendly ways of delivering products. In 2023, this is expected to be one of the major sustainability trends.
Businesses are converting to electric cars, drones, and cargo bikes for the last step of the transport and delivery cycle (the so-called “last mile”). For example, Amazon has decided to expand its European fleet with electric vehicles in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz and Ocado – a British online grocer – has made a US$13.6 million investment in Wayve – a self-driving tech start-up that is expected to integrate its technology into Ocado’s delivery cars.
Trend #3. Recyclable packaging and a circular economy
The amount of packaging waste is enormous. The OECD’s Global Plastics Outlook predicts that over the next 40 years, plastic trash will rise from 353 million tons (2019) to 1 billion tons with over 60% of that waste being composed of packaging, textiles, and consumer goods.
This is why reducing packaging waste and creating recyclable alternatives are other major sustainability trends for 2023 and beyond. Some European retailers are already looking forward to making the brand packaging of their products reusable and recyclable by 2025.
Another strategy to cut waste is the circular economy concept – a strategy that encourages the initial sustainable design of products and strongly supports the reuse and recycling of already manufactured goods and materials. Ikea, for instance, has promised to achieve complete circularity by 2030.
Experts anticipate that by 2030, the circular economy will increase its value by US$35 billion through cost savings in the consumer packaged goods sector.
Trend #4. “Greener” buildings
Besides sustainability regulations, companies are examining how their workplaces function. An increasing number of companies are adopting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard, a widely accepted certification program.
Why are retail buildings becoming LEED certified?
Through LEED certification, owners of various facilities can demonstrate to the world that their organization is serious about sustainability.
Here are some examples of what LEED certification means:
- Retail locations boast more indoor fresh air and less exposure to pollutants.
- Via LEED certification, businesses show their workers and clients that human health is one of their top priorities along with environmental protection.
- LEED-certified buildings attract and retain more customers compared to non-certified structures and spaces.
- LEED certification enhances the brand experience and increases brand loyalty.
Trend #5. ‘Greenwashing’ will be heavily targeted
If we search online for ‘greenwashing’, there is a high chance of finding information about businesses that have been exposed for making erroneous or deceptive sustainability statements.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when a business presents itself as being “environmentally sensitive” for marketing purposes but, in reality, is not taking any significant sustainability measures.
However, it seems as though getting away with greenwashing is becoming a thing of the past. For instance, some fast-fashion brands have received criticism for promoting a supposedly sustainable line of clothing whereas there was no evidence that the clothing was actually made with sustainability in mind. As a result, young consumers have reacted on social media, demonstrating that they are prepared to hold firms accountable for misleading the public.
Trend #6. Using technology (including Artificial Intelligence) to ensure a sustainable future
AI has proved to be crucial in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. AI can be used in:
- Precision agriculture
- Improved weather and disaster forecasting
- Improved reaction to disasters
* Precision agriculture is the practice of employing cutting-edge sensor and analysis systems to increase agricultural yields and support management decisions.
For example, Google’s AI/ML Earth Engine with its satellite imagery, geographical data, and powerful computing is already providing data that organizations can use to enhance climate resilience.
Experts believe that the adoption of AI for environmental causes such as weather forecasting and reduced CO2 emissions among others could help the world economy gain up to US$5.2 trillion in 2030.
Trend #7. Cloud computing for a greener future
Industry advisers suggest cloud computing can help us shift to greener outcomes – it uses less power since there is less equipment and thus lower workloads.
Since this technology prioritizes efficiency and optimization, cloud providers develop and manage workloads that are both affordable and sustainable. Companies can use this technology to reduce carbon emissions and energy use.
For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is attempting to help Amazon to reach its objective of using only renewable power by 2025 and The Nature Conservancy, a US-based environmental group, uses this new tech to raise the number of trees in underserved areas.
Previously, sustainability was seen as ‘good to have’ but in 2023 and beyond, views will change to emphasize commitment. Therefore, today is the best time to evaluate where your company stands and what changes may be taken both immediately and over time to lessen your environmental impact.
RightAngle Global can help your company or client to obtain important insights from relevant subject matter experts so you can stay informed and continue evolving. Contact RightAngle Global whenever you have immediate project needs!
Companies are not afraid of outsourcing anymore. Here are top 5 trends to watch out for.
Top 5 future trends in business that companies need to be aware of
How do you make your profile more visible to expert networks?