Cause For Optimism in Top Sustainable Business Trends

sustainable business trendsGreenBiz has just come out with its seventh annual State of Green Business Report, which pulls no punches in terms of bad news. The raw numbers are nothing to shout about, some important metrics are flat or even declining. However, GreenBiz sees plenty of cause for optimism in several significant areas that are not quantified.

In particular, with the recent West Virginia chemical spill still fresh in our minds, we’d like to take a closer look at over-arching trend expressed by GreenBiz:

…a growing recognition among the public that “sustainability” isn’t just about preserving icebergs, rainforests and charismatic megafauna. It is also about public health, community well-being, food security, affordable housing and alleviating poverty.

Top Sustainable Business Trends

We highly recommend reading the full report, which is packed with relevant details, so here is just a quick tease.

1. Collaboration becomes an accelerator

Inter-company collaboration, assisted by non-profit conservation groups and other stakeholders, is becoming a greater force for change. Just a few recent examples cited by GreenBiz are: roundtables for sustainable beef, responsible soy, sustainable palm oil, sustainable forests, and sustainable manufacturing.

To that we’d add campaigns like the Ceres BICEP initiative, which has united hundreds of diverse companies in a call for legislative action on climate change.

2. Chemical transparency creates a window of opportunity

Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Freedom Industries (the company responsible for the West Virginia chemical spill) ignored, but according to GreenBiz the increased pressure on retailers by concerned consumers is one factor pushing “regulation by marketplace.” One result is a greater attentiveness to the kinds of products carried by retailers, and Walmart and Target are cited as standout examples of this trend.

This can also be a self-reinforcing loop when companies actively court sustainability-minded customers with other green initiatives, such as drop-off recycling locations and EV charging stations.

3. Water rises as a risk factor

Water scarcity issues are forcing companies to think more strategically about water consumption and conservation, leading to change and innovation. One example pointed out by GreenBiz is Israel, with so many startups that GreenBiz dubs the country a “kind of Silicon Valley for water.”

That’s in addition to leading  global companies, particularly in the beverage industry where Pepsi and AB InBev are just two among many examples.

More trends for sustainable business

That’s just a taste of what Green Biz has to offer. Another trend that caught its eye is shadow pricing, which in this context refers to the estimated price of goods and services that nature provides to business.

The integration of social issues into sustainability metrics is another important trend, with Levi-Strauss being a major force in that area.

Food sustainability, employee engagement, energy storage (a critical trend for progress on renewable energy), urban innovation, and something we’ll call “positivity” for short round out the top sustainable business trend.

To expand on the positivity trend, think of a building that incorporates solar cells, so that it generates more clean energy than it consumes. Or, think of a beverage company that engages in water resource projects, so it adds back more to the global water supply than it extracts for its products.

When you think about it, we are just at the beginning of a transformative era made possible by new technologies and new strategies that have only just begun to take effect, so we’re with GreenBiz. The raw numbers may be disappointing this year, but they only tell part of a more hopeful picture.

[Image: by Donkey Hotey via]

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Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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