Besides, the business case for sustainability has only gotten stronger. There is a sense that we need to act now and change the world to build back better.
Throughout history, systemic changes haven’t evolved linearly but rather exploded into our lives exponentially.
This terrible health crisis, the role that climate change played in catastrophes as the Australian bushfires and the loss of biodiversity are making us consumers increasingly interested in environmental, social and economic issues.
An example of this raising interest was 2020 David Attenborough’s film A life on our planet. The documentary, describing the loss of biodiversity during Attenbourgh’s lifespan, got thousands of viewers brought to tears by the footage, prompting an outpouring of emotion on social media.
Consumers want to buy healthy, bio, locally sourced foods with less environmental impact. Food production is responsible for 26% of greenhouse gases and has a significant impact on land use and freshwater consumption.
It is clear that the biggest positive impact an individual can have on climate change is by eating a sustainable diet with less meat and dairy, less food waste and more vegetables, nuts and legumes.
Therefore, the consumption of plant-based meat and dairy substitutes has kept rising during the pandemic.
As an example, the sustainable leader Unilever expects to increase its plant-based meat and dairy alternatives sales to €1bn in five to seven years.
Textiles and Sustainable Fashion
Research from BCG shows that 38% of consumers report actively switching from their preferred brand to another because it credibly stands for positive environmental and social practices.
Brands are responding by using sustainable materials in the products, building transparency through their supply chains and building circular fashion systems by designing, producing, selling and collecting products that enable the reuse and recycling of post-consumer textiles. As an example, Adidas Grün (“green”) is a range of footwear that minimizes the environmental impact by the use of recycled fabrics and natural materials from certified sources, such as cotton, hemp, bamboo and cork.
Our determination to reduce our impact in the world will boost a transition towards electric vehicles, remote working, sustainable packaging and, dematerialization of the economy. This latter means demanding product as a service such as sharing economy, digitalization or cloud solutions in ICT.
An important trend falls into educating and informing consumers about products’ sustainability claims. In this sense, there are Eco-labels which inform consumers about products’ health, environment or social benefits. There are eco-labels certified by third parties such as Forest Stewardship Council, Fairtrade or Energy Star.
The reality is that many consumers remain confused and skeptical about companies’ eco-products benefits.
According to a poll from Nielsen, two-thirds of the respondents trusted consumer opinions posted online. Therefore, brands will increasingly dedicate efforts on promoting blogs, social media and communities with consumer-generated content to increase the acceptance of their products.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing will be gaining further momentum in 2021 as COVID19 and, its consequences accelerate the notion that companies should look beyond profits. Business goals should be aligned with the world’s pressing societal issues (stakeholder capitalism).
Renewable energy getting ridiculously cheap
The world relies on power from fossil fuels because, in the past, they were “far cheaper” than other sources.
Nevertheless, Wind and Solar plants became 70% and 89% cheaper in the last ten years and, their capacity will exceed coal and gas in less than five years. In fact, solar power has become the ‘cheapest electricity in history’ even below coal.
Net-Zero Emissions Companies
Net-zero emissions companies have been in 2020 and will be one of the fastest-growing sustainable business trends. According to scientists achieving net-zero before 2050 is critical to keeping us safe from the catastrophic consequences of climate change.
To summarize, Eco-products, Sustainable investing, Renewable energy and, Net-zero emissions are key sustainable business trends for 2021.
They will create sufficient risks and opportunities as to shake the way companies operate not in 2050 but 2021.