Here is a list of 20 sustainability trends that are changing the business landscape. We’re keeping our eyes on these…
1. From economic collapse to a green economic recovery.
Interest in all things “green” continues to grow as the economy sinks. About 34 percent of people are now more likely to buy environmentally responsible products and 44 percent of consumers indicate their environmental shopping habits have not changed as a result of the economy (Cone Consumer environmental survey 2009).
Sustainability is coming into its own as a force to drive competitiveness. This development is substantiated by the stabilization of green jobs while others have collapsed (Environmental Leader 2009). Businesses are increasingly realizing the ability to minimize costs through environmentally conscious operations – boosting profits, developing brand value and building a strong position to beat less adaptive competitors when the recession ends.
2. From carbon footprint confusion to footprint awareness.
More than half of the global population is aware of the term “carbon footprint,” up from 38 percent in 2007. U.S. consumers fall behind the UK in awareness – 96 percent of UK adults say they are aware of the term and many of us have used a carbon footprint online calculator. As this awareness grows, it is likely that consumers will drive the sustainability market by demanding low carbon products.
3. From carbon offset doubt to market development.
More companies will continue to offset carbon emissions. Point Carbon’s Market Outlook expects the global carbon offset market to grow 20 percent in terms of volume in 2009. They forecast that 5.9 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) will trade this year, compared to 4.9 Gt in 2008. Despite this prediction, Clownfish hope that there will be a stronger trend for direct reductions rather than offsetting, as the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.”
4. From carbon-centric to water-centric.
The UK has become obsessed with carbon footprints, but now the term water footprint has entered the corporate vocabulary. About 2.6 billion people have no access to clean water (FairHome 2008), a problem not isolated to developing countries. This has pushed water issues up the environmental agenda, and will become a new focus for 2009-10. European legislation is changing to achieve the Water Framework Directive’s aim to have good or high quality water in the whole European Union by 2015. Businesses will no longer be able to ignore their water use and efficiency.
5. From direct water use to embedded water use.
There is an increasing focus on embedded water use, which will only continue in 2009.
According to Waterwise, the average person in the UK directly uses about 150 liters of water per day. But behind this direct use there is an indirect use, which is about 23 times higher at 3400 liters per day. Of those 3,400 liters, 31 percent is embedded in industrial goods and 65 percent embedded in food, with the other 4 percent relating to drinking water and water used for domestic purposes. To reduce this indirect usage, consumers will be calling on businesses to make changes to their products.
6. From high-energy use light-bulbs to light-sensors.
A recent survey of over 2000 lighting and electrical experts has found that occupancy sensors are the most recommended energy saving office tool. Among new building projects surveyed in the past two years, occupancy sensors were recommended in 55 percent of applications, which can save an average of 30 percent in lighting costs. Expect more companies to be adopting energy saving techniques this year, particularly as companies tighten their purse strings in the recession and energy bills continue to fluctuate.
7. From cheap to costly carbon car taxes.
European taxes on carbon emissions for new cars are becoming stricter; they are increasing to 130g/km by 2012, this target is likely to increase after 2012. Over the next year, suppliers will need to be engaged and made aware of the realities that they will face when this legislation is passed.
8. From fast fashion to slow fashion.
Fashion experts are predicting the days of fast fashion will soon dwindle. Consumers are beginning to steer away from cheap, disposable items and appreciate the value of investing in ethically-sourced, organic and fairtrade fabrics. In 2009, consumer awareness will continue to grow and shoppers will no longer consider products that cause environmental destruction or promote unethical practices to be the best on the high street. Luxury fashion will begin to associate environmentally and socially responsible products with status – lets hope the celebs won’t just be wearing Gucci because of its price tag, but wearing Noir because it is ethically responsible – a price tag worth paying.
9. From landfill waste to lack of space.
Landfill sites for London’s non-hazardous rubbish are likely to be full by the end of 2010, and other landfill sites will run out of capacity by 2013. As a result, UK Landfill taxes are increasing from £8/ton/year in 2009 to £48/ton/year in 2010. This is in line with European waste targets that hope to achieve a 75 percent reduction in landfill waste between 2005 and 2010, a further 50 percent by 2013 and 35 percent by 2020. So companies will have to seek reductions in waste or be forced to pay up.
10. From energy excess to energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is set to become even bigger business this year; The July 2008 edition of The McKinsey Quarterly estimated that US$170 billion a year will be invested in energy efficiency between now and 2020, which could halve forecasted growth in global energy demand. That effort could also deliver up to half of the carbon dioxide emissions abatement needed to cap atmospheric greenhouse gases at 450ppm.
The EU’s prEN 16001 energy efficiency standard, out in 2009, will extend the scope of the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 environmental standards into energy management to help companies set up continuous improvement processes for efficient energy use. The ISO is planning to do likewise with a new ISO 50001 standard by 2011. So stay up to speed with the energy efficiency trends – it is all changing!
11. From energy efficiency standards to legal requirements.
New energy laws are likely to be just around the corner. Alongside prEN 16001, a draft EU standard for energy efficiency services was published in March 2009 for public comment. It outlines standards for calculating energy consumption, energy audit methodologies, and energy certificates, which the EU hopes may be tradable in the future. These standards will have significant effects on management systems throughout Europe – even more so when the governments decide to implement some of the recommendations into law.
12. From fossil fuels to renewables.
Renewable energy is a focus of 2009 as the European Investment Bank increases lending to develop renewable energy schemes. According to Morgan Stanley’s Green Market Penetration forecast (2007), the renewables trend is going to continue developing; revenue from alternative energies could top $500 billion in 2020 and world-wide sales from alternative energy sources could reach $1 trillion by 2030.
13. From printed papers to digital development.
Digital marketing has provided new tools for brands to reach their audiences; the development of online videos, social networks, podcasts and games, highlights that the digital marketing space will continue to expand. A consumer’s online experience can significantly affect future behaviour; 81 percent of consumers are more likely to return to the website if they had a good experience (Cosmetics Design 2008).
Brands will increasingly use online spaces in 2009 to communicate with consumers. Digital means that today the brands that will win, will be those whose consumers and other stakeholders tell the best stories. It’s no longer a one-way narrative, it’s about a two-way conversation.
14. From greenwashing to green authentification.
Complaints about the misuse of green terminology in advertisements to the Advertising Standards Authority have increased dramatically in recent years. In 2006, the ASA received 117 complaints about environmental claims in 83 advertisements, but in 2007, there were 561 complaints about 410 advertisements ? almost a 500 percent increase. The most common claims being challenged are those referring to carbon reduction, cradle?to?grave and green energy sources. This year will see the development of advertising standards and an increasing requirement for brands to have claims that are underpinned by fact.
15. From creative carbon labels to consistent carbon labelling.
Carbon labelling schemes are up and running on lots of packaging, but there is a lack of transparency in the calculations and no international standardisation – Watch for this to be developed in 2009.
16. From offline to online.
Brands can no longer hide behind their TV ads or billboard posters because of the power of online search. Consumers can find information about anything, anytime, and they are actively seeking information about the brands with which they interact. In 2009, it is going to be increasingly important for brand image to match company behaviour. After all, 81 percent of UK consumers place more importance on what companies do than what they say (The Drum 2008). So it is about clear, genuine, authentic messages that promote transparency, as this research shows there is a positive correlation between transparency and trust – It’s about being tangible.
17. From environmental sustainability to embedded sustainability.
In 2009 we will see stronger links between sustainability and well-being. The UN Development and Happiness Index, and the NEF Happy Planet Index integrate human well-being and environmental impact. The credibility of these indices will continue to increase, with the $200 billion Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market expected to double by 2010 and quadruple by 2015, according to the Natural Marketing Institute. As awareness increases about the intertwined relationship between the environment and well-being, the public will rapidly demand environmental action.
18. From company claims to external verification.
Consumers no longer passively accept news and product information thrown at them by marketers, ads, or their peers. About 64 percent of consumers want third-party verification of green claims according to the GfK-Roper’s 2007 report. Some unusual partnerships are already developing between NGO’s and large organisations, for example McDonald’s and Greenpeace, Coca-Cola and WWF and Vodafone Greece and Greenpeace. As this trend continues in 2009, there needs to be a balance between credibility and values for both the company and the NGO. This will help to retain the trust of consumers
19. From one renewable success to another.
Patents in wind, fuel cells, hydroelectric, tidal and geothermal were up in 2008 over 2007 with hydroelectric and tidal patents being at all time highs. In contrast, solar, hybrid/electric vehicle and biomass/biofuel energy patents fell slightly in 2008. In 2009, it will be interesting to see which renewable energy sources will continue to develop new technology.
20. From bins to bucks.
Gone are the days when consumers simply put something in the bin after using it. People are now opting to reuse, resell, donate or recycle old goods. Millions of us sell used goods on Ebay, which has recently launched “green team” and “world of good” websites to help users buy, sell and think green.
With tightening waste restrictions and legislations, we are beginning to see end use considered in the design stage of the products we buy. Manufacturers are reusing parts of returned products, essentially accomplishing two things: repurposing the materials and holistically extending the life of the product. This is an environmentalists’ dream that will hopefully spread across the business world in 2009-10.
Becky Willan is Head of Strategy for Clownfish, a London-based marketing/communications agency that specializes in sustainability.