5 Key Sustainable Business Trends: #1 From Generic Commitment to Bold Action

As the tide turns on corporate appetite for sustainability, we take a look at the major sustainable business trends that will affect your organisation. First up: a shift from generic commitment to bold action.

15 September, 2021

Now is a critical time for business, both in terms of responding to the climate crisis and ecological breakdown, but also at a time when assumptions, needs and perspectives that underpin society and business are shifting.

As we work to support businesses across various sectors on their sustainability journey, we’re able to identify key trends, and these are the top 5 trends we want to share with you. These trends are symptoms of accelerating social and environmental problems, the increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain Complex & Ambiguous) world we find ourselves in, and rapidly changing attitudes to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). But whatever is driving the change, it is clear that these trends will have an impact on how businesses work towards achieving sustainability goals, and putting sustainability at the heart of business.

Trend #1: Business is shifting from generic commitment to bold action

Few now question WHY we need to shift to sustainable models (something very much underlined by the recent IPCC AR6 report that we wrote about last week).  The discussion is now around WHAT business can do in the context of climate change, biodiversity, wellbeing, and equality and diversity.

There has been widespread realisation that no business can disconnect itself from nature and society and continue to degrade the systems that support us. There is acceptance that business-as-usual has been too costly, and there is growing appetite and passion for building back better—business transformation with sustainability at its heart.

And that is demonstrated by the organisations we’ve seen leading the way with bold ambitions – some from big traditional brands such as Microsoft, Google, Jaguar-Landrover etc, but this commitment is coming from many places; start-ups, not for profits, policymakers, trade associations, and the everyday businesses that you represent:

This corporate commitment is to celebrated, but it’s also important to take stock and reflect on whether by committing, we’re doing enough. We have to remember that the ambitions and targets don’t change anything materially in the world without action. We can’t risk a ‘commitment culture’ distracting us from delivering impact, and that’s because this really is a race against time, with only 9 years left to act on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Next time we’ll take a quick look at a second sustainable business trend—how corporate reporting & disclosure leads to a growing risk of initiative overload.