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2024 Sustainability Trends

Sustainability in 2024

Image: Shutterstock, 2024

Andrew Winston shares the top 7 high level sustainability trends for 2024 in this MIT Sloan Management Review article. Here is the summary of his main points:

  1. Climate change will get worse. The coolest, most climate-stable summer of your life was the last one.

  2. Elections will dramatically influence the future of sustainability and climate action. Half of humanity will vote in national elections this year. These elections are critical to everyone’s future, and how countries address climate change, inequality, and other societal issues (or don’t) will clearly impact business.

  3. Sustainability reporting will garner more attention and investment within companies. It's estimated that companies will have to spend as much money on non-financial reporting as they currently do on financial reporting.

  4. Clean tech will continue to expand. The world added a stunning 440 gigawatts of renewable capacity in 2023. Renewables are cheaper in most places, so the expansion will continue.

  5. Distractions and strawman arguments will proliferate. Clean tech’s expansion threatens some very rich and powerful vested interests, hence anti-climate action stories will continue to proliferate. Companies on the decarbonization path will need to cut through this noise and keep moving.

  6. Partnerships to tackle sustainability issues at scale will grow. Collaborations are key. We’ll see an acceleration of systems thinking.

  7. The threat of the anti-ESG movement will wane. This may be wishful thinking. While this is a U.S.-based phenomenon, it has affected multinationals everywhere.

Additionally, we're seeing the following trends:

  1. Collecting comprehensive sustainability data is paramount. Net zero commitments and the wave of climate risk disclosure and reporting measures will further drive the need for solid ESG data collection, knowledge of reporting requirements and resources to follow-up on them.

  2. Attracting and retaining talent requires offering meaningful work. Rather than being part of the problem or feeling defeated in the face of global issues such as climate change, young people are looking for meaningful jobs that help them to be part of the solution. If you want to continue to attract and retain talent, it pays off to focus on sustainability and climate action.

  3. Supplier engagement and collaboration takes center stage in most companies' decarbonization efforts. Value chain emissions i.e. scope 3 often makes up 80-90% of a company's overall carbon footprint. To reduce emissions, supplier engagement is critical.

  4. The sustainability profession is evolving and expanding. More work is being added to the plates of sustainability professionals and at the same time, other functions are increasingly expected to take on sustainability related tasks. To effectively act on key sustainability and climate topics companies need to up-skill their workforce or hire expertise to fill the gaps.

  5. Regenerative practices will continue to gain in importance. 'Doing less bad' and diminishing your negative impacts on the environment and society is not good enough anymore. We need companies to give back more to the world than they take, companies that are, as defined by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston, 'net positive'.


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