As we continue to navigate this Covid19 landscape and adjust our business models to work within this new world, we mustn’t forget that many of the priorities important to us and our clients from last year will remain so. Some, in fact, will even be enhanced. For me, I feel sustainability will be one of those areas. If anything, this year has taught us how fragile our earth is, and how easily we can take it for granted. This article will look at some of the Trends in Sustainability in 2020… there have been important strides in the right direction!
The Scope of Sustainability
I find the world of sustainability fascinating. Naturally, because it is a way to educate ourselves on how to look after our planet, but also because of the sheer range that the title encompasses. We were likely all in the same boat in our initial thinking that ‘being sustainable’ was all about recycling and reducing waste, right? It’s only when I really started paying attention in recent years that I realised just how much sustainability encompasses.
Here are just a few of the trends that have come up within sustainability that have stood out to me. All are areas that can be weaved into the way that we work.
Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR)
We have all heard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but have you heard of Corporate Digital Responsibility? CDR is the use of digital technologies to promote ethical and sustainable business practices, and this year we have seen numerous companies coming forward with this focus.
Within that, there are several areas a company can focus on:
Social Digital Responsibility:
This is where a company has practices around proper employee privacy, digital diversity and inclusion. They ensure that their team’s privacy is monitored online, and that there is an inclusive environment in every aspect of the company. This includes how the company is represented across, for example, social media channels.
Economic Digital Responsibility:
This takes into account the replacement of jobs by technology and the impact that has. It also looks at the changing nature of jobs through things like the gig economy (something that we have all had to adjust to within our industry).
Environmental Digital Responsibility:
This includes the responsible recycling of e-waste and the power usage of technologies.
Circular thinking is where a company focuses on keeping resources in use for as long as possible, to extract the maximum value. For example, take-back schemes, substituting finite materials for renewable ones, redesigning products to use fewer materials and energy. Currently, the world is only at a 8.6% circular model, but 2020 has shown this as a trend that more companies are embracing. Take Starbucks as an example. They committed to becoming a resource-positive company at the beginning of this year. This will see them eventually storing more carbon than they emit, eliminating waste, and providing more clean fresh water than they use.
The Fashion and Luxury Good Industry
The fashion industry is responsible for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and there is a growing number of consumers who recognise the impact this is having on our earth. Many brands are now embracing sustainability. This might mean focusing on made-to-order pieces (to avoid waste), sourcing more ethical production partners, or pledging to cut their carbon emissions. There is also steer away from the traditional ‘fast fashion’ and a focus on investment pieces made by local designers.
2020 has certainly showed us the value and importance of employee wellbeing. Unaddressed stressful work situations, poor mental health, and a lack of flexibility in working schedules affect the employee, and as such, the company’s bottom line. We have yet to see a global consensus on how to create a metric for the value of human capital, but this year has seen many companies looking for ways to enhance employee wellbeing, and are seeing the benefit from it. Take Microsoft, who introduced a 4-day working week in Japan and have seen a 40% increase in productivity.
As businesses and consumers alike are becoming more conscious of their actions, increased focus on sustainability is one of the good news stories of this year. We have all learnt (/are continuing to learn!) a lesson in not taking life as we know it for granted. I believe that such awareness of life and the connectedness of the planet in which we live, will only serve to strength us and the sustainability of our world moving forward. The upward trend in sustainability of 2020 is one to embrace!
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