Over the past decade, the term sustainability has caught on in the boardroom, courtroom and living room. While the concept has reached the mainstream, opportunities abound for implementation. Ten trends to watch for and prepare in 2018….
1. Role of technology – Between smart grids, smart supply chains and smart transport, i.e., electric trucks, trains and cars, reliance on AI will increase. This can be good or bad, depending on whether programmers KNOW to code for sustainability. Unfortunately, research shows Silicon Valley is behind the curve. Other tech centers will step up.
2. Cities planning for climate change – Now that the insurance sector acknowledges the risks of climate change, increasingly local governments will prepare themselves. Coastal cities planning for sea-level rise or any town planning for the disaster du jour – hurricanes, sinkholes, tornadoes, blizzards, fires – must put sustainability plans in place or face uninsurable liability.
3. Cultural divide – Besides the haves and have nots, expect a divide between those who do and those who don’t: do recycle, don’t eat meat; don’t stave off vampire electrics, do use plastic bags; don’t drive big cars, do carpool. Reduce/reuse from the Thrift Store or shop new at the Box Store? Fortunately, retailers will offer more sustainable products to attract both.
4. Corporate breakdown of silos – Corporations will increasingly value integrating sustainability across departments, product lines, R&D, manufacturing, infrastructure, everything! Up and down the supply chain, as imperative for international trade or a method of risk abatement – assimilating sustainability will become essential to ameliorate corporate woes and increase profitability.
5. Fake news driving real news – With so little trust in media, companies, NGOs and governments will increasingly depend on externally assured self-reporting of their sustainability successes and challenges. As stakeholders become disillusioned and distrustful, sustainability reporting must prove itself – real metrics, no green or blue washing, with quantifiable goals. And, all of it must be verified by an outside source.
6. Cross-company collaboration – Many of today’s pressing issues are simply too complex to solve alone. An even bigger traction of companies – and competitors – will partner to advance whole-scale change, like for example Danone and Nestle did to form the NaturALL Bottle Alliance.
7. Sector-wide collaboration with consumers – Acknowledging the power of strength in numbers, companies in specific industries will continue to band together to accelerate progress on shared issues. For example, the Food and Beverage industry has aggressively tackled transparency, with major players like Hershey and Panera arming consumers with additional information, not only nutrition but also production (organic, non-GMO), shipping and handling (human rights), and sustainability efforts.
8. Generation Z influence – Generation Z will hold companies to high standards. Much like their Millennial counterparts, Generation Z is focused on the impact companies have on the world. In a study by i4cp, 93% of Gen Zs said that a company’s impact on society affects their decision to work at or purchase from the company.
9. Companies aligning initiatives around United Nations SDGs – The Sustainable Development Goals call for action by all UN member states to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. By aligning around the 17 Goals, and their smaller targets, corporations will take on major sustainability initiatives specific to company values. The SDGs are also going to change and enhance the future of Sustainability Reports.
10. More sustainability related jobs – Sustainability related jobs will be created, not only in large companies but also including benefit corporations and green startups. To get advanced knowledge in this field and earn qualifications, go to www.sustainability-academy.org.
Based on a collective 100-plus years of experience among our leadership and advisors, extrapolating from our annual research, we at CSE know the challenges are surmountable. With awareness, education and determination – ever forward!
The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) specializes in global sustainability consulting, training and research. CSE has trained over 5,000 professionals, many from the Fortune 500. CSE’s Sustainability Academy offers affordable, online education in corporate responsibility. Accredited by CMI (Chartered Management Institute), CSE is a GRI-certified training provider. Upcoming in-person Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Programs (2018 Advanced Edition) include London, March 1-2; Atlanta, March 8-9; Toronto, April 26-27; New York, June 7-8, and other dates globally.
Megan is a freelance writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. Her blog - Joyful, Brave & Awesome - chronicles her experience as a parent of a special needs child.