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In 2021 the logic of sustainability became popular and binding in many areas of economic policy and finance. Since the onset of the current pandemic crisis, the influence of sustainability on consumer buying behaviors has significantly increased.

On the other hand, the tensions caused by energy prices which occurred at the end of the year seem to have changed the current conditions, introducing more cautious considerations and second thoughts, after the evidence of the direct and indirect effects those tensions have had on families’ and companies’ budgets. We’re back to considering nuclear energy clean.

Something seems to have rotten towards the end of the year, almost impinging over the growing popularity and awareness on sustainability issues. Yet, for example, sustainable energy continues to be the most reliable response of convenience and stability, even in the instance of out-of-control price dynamics.

1. In 2021 the sustainable economy became “Mainstream”, no doubts about that!

Climate management and other “SDG” issues are now crucial to economic value creation.

  • More than 2,000 companies have adopted scientifically determined C02-emissions reduction targets. About one-third of Europe’s largest listed companies have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • The COP26 event in Glasgow ended with a clear path but also a full-blown alarm for the future. All past commitments were considered totally inadequate. If all nations were to hit their targets, we would be able to contain global warming to 1.8 ° C when the initial goal was 1.5.
  • JPMorgan, Chase, Citi, Morgan Stanley, and the Bank of America (among others) have committed to investing between 1 and 2.5 trillion US dollars in concrete actions to fight climate change and sustainable development.
  • Major car manufacturers and many big nations have committed to discontinuing the production of fossil fuel cars in the next 15 to 20 years.
  • Microsoft and Google are working exclusively towards using only renewable energies and investing in carbon sequestration technologies.

In 2022 the voice of the youngsters will be even louder. Over 1,000 McKinsey consultants have written an open letter to their bosses asking the company to stop working with fossil fuel companies and other customers who may irrevocably harm the planet.

2. Good practices marking 2022.

Given the current implementation rates, many of the present-day sustainability practices will continue to be adopted and continue to have an impact in 2022.

Sustainable finance: more and more companies are making corporate finance decisions with a view to sustainability and are holding themselves accountable in case they fail in meeting their green standards.

Renewable energy: the price of renewable energy has plummeted in the last decade, and this stability has represented a determining element of stability and continuity in the case of supply contrasting those scenarios of speculation and tension of prices.

Give-Back programs: More and more organizations are introducing ‘Giving Back’ programs in which businesses can donate a portion of their profits to charities and other social benefit projects.

Sustainable food products: the management of food – i.e., production, packaging, shipping, and the management of waste and unsold goods – is now the subject of profound assessments and the widespread innovation activities for sustainability.

Innovative partnerships: the sustainability goals constituted and declined in the different economic activities give rise to even unexpected forms and levels of collaboration, that can give enhance effectiveness and efficiency in different contexts.

Net-Zero emissions: companies are adopting net-zero emissions targets more frequently, aimed to trace, reduce, eliminate, or somehow compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions for which companies are responsible.

3. The pivotal role of consumers.

Consumers’ awareness of climate change and sustainability issues has peaked in 2021 and this call to action is expected to become even stronger and more effective in 2022. Consumers buying behaviors are becoming increasingly influencing, especially among young people.

A Deloitte survey of February last year, conducted amid the pandemic crisis, found that among Gen Zers the perception of problems caused by climate and environmental change are their main personal concern, surpassing unemployment, and health concerns. The consumers from Generation Z are particularly caring about the consistency of manufacturers and brands in general, concerning their declared environmental and sustainability commitments. This is pushing the major market players to take their sustainability commitments very seriously and adopt oriented ethical practices.

Fast fashion is the past, sustainable fashion is the present.

 Maurizio Fappani

 maurizio.fappani@hfp.it

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Credits

  • A. Winston, Sustainable Business Went Mainstream in 2021, Harvard Business Review – December 27, 2021
  • R. Richards, 6 Sustainability Trends That Will Impact Business in 2022, maschallenge.org – December 7, 2021
  • J. Goldman and K. von Abrams, Consumers to make sustainability a business imperative in 2022, emarketer.com – December 20, 2021
  • J.D. Sachs, C. Kroll, G. Lafortune, G. Fuller and F. Woelm, Sustainable development report 2021, Cambridge University Press – 2021