While every year comes with hurdles and challenges in sustainability, 2021 continued to shed more light on how consumers rely on companies to be held accountable and transparent regarding their sustainability practices. Consumers have always voted with their dollars, but they have begun to choose companies that reflect and represent strong social and environmental values.
Companies have reacted by setting ambitious ESG goals revolving around net zero, nature-based solutions and DE+I. However, consumers and investors are demanding tangible actions after the climate crisis was deemed a “code red for humanity.” Businesses started to take a closer look at all emissions, especially coming from the supply chain. To do this, many have demanded sustainable action from suppliers and the shipping industry.
As we look toward 2022 and beyond, we expect to see more net zero initiatives, social targets, and innovative research in nature-based solutions and sustainable aviation – all backed with new data and metrics.
2022 Sustainability Trends
Here are four sustainability industry trends that companies should be aware of in 2022:
Trend 1: Setting Net Zero and Green Initiatives
Over the past few years, the term ‘net zero’ was considered progressive, and the most forward-thinking companies set ambitious goals and targets. However, ‘net zero’ has become expected across sectors, as most companies now have set a goal for this target or are being encouraged to do so. This is for a variety of reasons and pressures, but highly tied to investor interests. Setting goals for decades out is difficult for not only investors, but consumers as well, to see where small progress is being made unless a company clearly articulates it. Sustainability analytics is a crucial part of setting, working toward, and achieving net zero goals. Top sustainable companies like Nestlé, Apple, and McCormick & Co. make it known in their annual ESG reports about the steps they are taking to achieve these goals.
Data visibility and accessibility will improve due to stricter regulations and laws. The SEC plans to increase regulation regarding what companies must disclose and where. Since the start of the sustainability and environmental movements, greenwashing and ‘goodwashing’ have taken over. Companies and brands, eager to lead, have made unrealistic promises and far-fetched claims that both confuse consumers and demonstrate a lack of honesty. With 70% of consumers willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging and 67% finding sustainable packaging of the products they purchase important, this creates more pressure for companies to adapt to changing consumer preferences.
Trend 2: Strengthening the S in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)
The pandemic uncovered major social issues that sparked pressure to prioritize inclusive finance. It also reversed decades of progress in social and economic development that widened the digital gap, causing substantial impacts across the globe.
When discussing sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), the environment often comes first to mind. However, the social dimension is undoubtedly significant and can impact bottom lines. Social factors, such as how a company manages relationships with its workforce and the communities in which it operates in, are much less difficult to measure, and therefore risk can often be ignored or brushed over by sustainability departments.
The social element that is material to companies involves all stakeholders – including the communities that are touched and operated within, employees, and consumers.
Companies are showing a growing awareness that social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with consumers and local communities. Cisco is making great strides, reporting social impact grants and signature programs that have reached 680 million people since 2016, equating to 68% of the 1 billion target for 2025. Businesses can leverage relationships to improve brand awareness and visibility. Additionally, this helps create a sense of company pride among employees. Continue reading by downloading the full report below …
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Contributions by Alexandra Hatsios