I have been in business for nearly 30 years, in and around it, owning it, and working for it. I love business but I don’t really like where it has been heading. On the news, I cannot avoid watching the disasters unfold and cannot help that when I see the news, I feel personally responsible, that I have in fact had something to do with climate change, and little to do with mitigating it, on a real and effective level. This has led me to discover and find out more about what are the real and troubling problems for business today, what are the global trends that we will need to take on board and how am I going to future proof my business?
The current top 5 global trends for business sustainability are:
1. Climate Change - It’s not going away
During 2009 the UN climate summit held in Copenhagen, 100,000 people converged to talk about making climate a global agreement. The key topic is still the key topic; burning of fossil fuel and divestment from these industries. The major trend here for business is to secure your portfolio of investments for the future, sequester your investments in carbon mitigating business and reduce your exposure to risk, also it is good for the environment to look at low carbon-emitting business ventures and cleaner supply chains.
Signs to watch
Top risks for business in 2020 are biodiversity loss, failure to mitigate climate change and adaptation, and extreme weather systems.
Funding for the gas and coal industries has seen a shift in 100 billion of the annual subsidies received are now to be reinvested into the renewable energy industry.
Industry leaders like Microsoft are investing in becoming completely carbon negative by 2030, which is only 10 years off.
2. Loss of our Natural Environment
Companies will face intense pressure to tackle what will be in 10 years a very real landscape. Climate change will have stressed our natural environment, excessive amounts of carbon in the atmosphere will further perpetuate the disastrous weather patterns we are seeing already and business will have to invest large sums of money for retrofitting factories, energy systems, and logistical solutions.
Companies such as America’s Pacific gas and electricity will be bankrupt due to a legal case stating the company had aged and outdated infrastructure which led to the Californians bushfires destruction.
Agriculture will need to change if the temperature rises over the 1.5-2% that it is currently pitched to reach, and all agricultural lands in Africa will be unviable for the production of food.
The UN development program estimates that one in every 3 dollars spent on development has been lost to extreme weather events in the last 30 years. $3.8 trillion lost
3. Drive Innovation and use every last bit of the resource, multiple times even
Through redesigning products and the increasing pressures coming from agencies such as the European’s Commission circular economies and the production and reproduction of items in the marketplace, keeping things in the loop and the benefits of these systems need to be adopted more quickly than they are. According to a list of experts who put together the Circularity Gap Report only 8.6% of circularity in the world today, which has dropped since 2018?? That is a long way off of the targets we need to reach before we warm up and it is no longer comfortable for anyone.
Top 3 signs to watch
Many business models in today's world are not fit for the futures resource strains
Increasing the reuse of products, developing scalable solutions of the product as a service model and understanding the value of waste explicable e-waste in China could reduce our emissions by 50%, cut greenhouse gases by 23% and reduce traffic congestion by 47% according to World Economic Forum
4. Supply chain cleanup, for real!
Supply chains are a complex beast and the idea of cleaning them up and propelling them into the next decade is overwhelming. Businesses need to ask the questions, where in my chain can I clean my business up?, where can I implement a serious and socially responsible change?Is my product/service unknowingly perpetuating the global climate crisis? We are moving into a landscape which sees AI, satellite and blockchain systems make our supply chains ever more transparent, and we need to make these changes now or we will get left behind in the wake of advancement.
Reports & Legislation
A report published by the CDP shows that 43% of their members are deselecting companies based on their environmental performance, with a further 30% are considering this stance also.
In 2017 only 23% of CDP supplier respondents were engaged with their suppliers on climate change, this is now up to 35% by 2019.
In 2019 legislation passed in the Netherlands to prosecute company executives if the business is proven to have repeated incidents of child labour.
Plastic has to go, now!
Some of the world's largest producers and consumers of plastics are banning single-use items like plastic bags in 2020, as we have seen from China in their recent ambitious plan. It is initiatives like this that need to be implemented the world over, and we need to see radical and adventurous pioneers take centre stage. Of course changing systems over like this are not only ambitious but also a massive undertaking and there is a call for new materials to take the place of their noxious rivals. Zeoform, an Australian biomaterial company has taken up the challenge to produce and input sustainable material solutions into supply chains that are not toxic for the environment but instead work with the delicate balance of nature.
Recycling & Global Issues
2019 saw the extraction to dispose of the lifecycle of global plastic was equivalent to the impact of 189 five-hundred-megawatt coal-fired power stations. That is a staggering statistic. If we keep going by 2050 it will be equivalent to 615 coal-fired plants running at full capacity. To break away from plastics is an understatement.
When China banned plastic imports in 2018, the top destination for plastic waste was Malaysia, since this date Malaysia has sent back almost 4,000 tons/ 150 shipping containers — of waste back to its original owners last year.
Bioplastics do not biodegrade unless they are in specific recycling centres or under certain conditions. Currently, there are only 150 of these recycling centres in Australia but the plastic problem keeps growing. Bioplastics also emit methane which further pollutes our air and systems.
My advice for business:
Identify your supply chain sustainability and explore technology that can enable greater outcomes for people and the planet.
Collaborate with your peers and work collectively to address these challenges.
As new tech is adopted ensure you are being transparent and ensure your supply chain also adopts this theory and practice.
Prioritise closed-loop systems. Collaborate with your value chain and increase product take back to keep materials in use.
Looking at your climate targets as a business see how the circular economy can meet your business needs.
Has your company looked at ways to reduce consumption?
Integrate climate risk and opportunities into corporate strategy, thinking, and planning. Be climate prepared and resilient.
Create an open dialogue and embed this into the company charter for the environment so that your board and committee will be able to oversee the issues.
Make a commitment to reduce your emissions in line with the global target of 1.5 % and use renewable energy.
Encourage everyone in your value chain and supply chain to commit to the target also.
Consider what regenerative materials your business can use to support carbon sequestration in the supply chain.
Be aware of and advocate when government regulation and policies on climate and energy (e.g., carbon pricing) put your business at risk and start to de-risk your business and portfolio by investing in low-carbon technologies and markets.
With all this in mind, the business landscape is going to look very different in 2020 and moving forward. Governments and corporations globally must be focussed on reducing their carbon footprint for more than environmental reasons, we need to consider the social and financial ramifications. Be a world leader, pioneer and start your business journey to change how you do things now.