2024 has been a landmark year for the planet, with sustainability stories that have both challenged our perspectives and inspired action. From breakthrough policies to revolutionary green technologies, these top 10 sustainability news stories have set the pace for an eco-friendlier future. Join us as we count down the moments that have sparked global conversations and propelled us towards a more sustainable tomorrow.
Top 10 Sustainability News of 2024
Here are our top ten sustainability news that we forecast to gain traction and represent sustainability in 2022:
1. A New Era in Sustainability Accountability
Around the world, there was an inflow of new sustainability legislation and rules and regulations last year. We anticipate governments and government agencies passing even more sustainability, circularity, and ESG-related legislation and rules in 2023. The forcing function’ on companies is taking place.
Europe is currently the leader in sustainability standards, remaining until 2023. The EU approved the Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in November 2022, making complete sustainability reporting mandatory for around 50,000 businesses by 2026. Many European corporations propose utilizing 2023 as a test year to establish CSRD and ESRS requirements and reporting effort levels before CSRD reporting becomes mandatory for larger organizations in the fiscal year 2024.
But, outside Europe and the United Kingdom, the rest of the globe is increasing its commitment to sustainability. Australia and Hong Kong are cracking down on greenwashing. India has mandated ESG reporting, a developing ecosystem, and a structure for sovereign green bonds, and even the United States is increasing its climate accountability.
While the SEC’s planned Climate Disclosure rule for 2022, which would require public businesses to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has been delayed, we anticipate a ruling in April based on existing guidance. The newly approved Inflation Reduction Act includes approximately $374 billion in climate spending, and the US government may begin enforcing climate disclosure from federal contractors.
2. A Strong Push for Biodiversity and Nature
Everyone is now talking about biodiversity and natural systems, which is good sustainability news. The UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 concluded in December and proved to be a watershed event for biodiversity. Over 200 countries agreed to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), a sort of ‘UN SDGs or Paris Agreement for biodiversity’ that adopts 23 conservation targets 2030, outlines a global biodiversity vision for 2050, and offers implementation guidance. With most countries on board for GBF, we anticipate significant momentum and action in the coming years to safeguard biodiversity.
Water is a prime example of where such momentum is desperately required. Water is necessary for life and the operation of society. The western United States has recently experienced the worst drought in over 1,200 years, while other parts of the world have had record-breaking floods and worrying water scarcity.
Water scarcity has devastating consequences for agriculture, society, and animals. Some people are talking about it, but more needs to be done to offset the adverse effects. More organizations will focus on regulating and managing their water resources in 2023, leading to more innovation. Water monitoring and management are set to become “new carbon” regarding KPIs for businesses, particularly those operating in water-scarce locations or water-intensive industries.
Also Read: Insights Into Biodiversity Recovery And Its Impact On The Environment
3. Closing the Circular Economy Loop
Circular economy adoption is another significant sustainability news of 2023. This is another area where Europe is ahead of countries such as the United States, where companies and regulators are more concerned about carbon emissions (and, increasingly, water). As we approach 2023, new European legislation is being introduced to reduce plastic waste, promote recycling and reuse, and improve overall circularity and waste management.
More shops, such as IKEA, Levi’s, Lululemon, and the North Face, are also attempting to decrease waste, use recyclable and recycled materials, and motivate their customers to engage in circularity. We expect more organizations to embrace circularity as a core operational sustainability strategy in 2023 as recycling technology, reuse choices, and reusable packing options increase. We’re also witnessing a growth in reuse and circularity-native brands and business models and more providers of circularity-as-a-service.
Also Read: Sustainable Techniques in Solid Waste Management
4. Consolidation of Sustainability and ESG Reporting Standards
One persistent criticism of ESG standards and sustainability reporting is that they are a complex, oversaturated ecology. With so many distinct standards to report on, sustainability practitioners may feel like they are drowning in an alphabet soup. To address this issue for businesses, environmental sustainability experts, and shareholders, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), under IFRS, is developing comprehensive, global ISSB sustainability reporting standards based on SASB, TCFD, and the GHG Protocol.
These criteria are expected to be implemented in 2023, encouraging corporations and investors to provide more transparent and consistent sustainability reporting. They should also better link the sustainability and finance teams regarding sustainability data and reporting.
5. Rigor, Scrutiny, and Net Zero Consistency
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about companies (and some governments) setting net-zero ambitions. As of January 5th, 2023, the Science Based Targets Institute (SBTi) dashboard showed that 4,383 companies had sent net-zero submissions to SBTi, and 2,141 companies had approved targets. We are still awaiting the official 2022 SBTi Progress Report, but we estimate that approximately the same amount of enterprises applied and had targets approved in 2021.
We expect many more corporations to commit to science-based targets, establish plans for their targets, and submit execution plans as demand from shareholders, investors, and governments grows to report on GHG emissions and move toward net zero targets. The substantial increase in corporations submitting marks to SBTi in 2021, with similar results projected in 2022, is a trend that many more companies will follow in 2023
6. Supply Chains and Supply Change
In 2022, supply chain management from an ESG and sustainability standpoint was significant sustainability news for firms, investors, and regulators. There needs to be more insight into firms’ supply chains and environmental implications, particularly at the indirect and Tier 2+ levels. Understanding an organization’s supply chain is crucial from an environmental standpoint because it frequently accounts for the bulk of Scope 3 emissions and other environmental impacts.
From a social perspective, understanding how workers in the value chain are treated can assist in guaranteeing that they are appropriately compensated and treated. More firms will engage their suppliers on sustainability action items and data this year and go further into their supply chains to understand raw material sourcing and suppliers’ suppliers.
7. ESG Investment Criticism Doesn’t Reverse the Macro Capital Allocation Trend
In the latter months of 2022, ESG has received much positive and negative attention. Many ESG detractors argue that ESG is too complicated and that the lack of standardization makes it too unclear to give value to investors, as we explored in our recent “ESG is Dead, Long Live ESG” essay. Critics of ESG investing argue that more standardization leads to clarity, better returns, greenwashing, and various other problems. ESG investing has become a particularly divisive issue in the United States.
8. Renewable Energy Security
We are approaching the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which triggered a humanitarian and global oil catastrophe. Countries worldwide are increasingly attempting to safeguard consumers from rising energy prices while reducing reliance on Russian fossil fuels. So far, the winter has been mild, but many European countries are restricting energy consumption. Because of energy inflation and a less consistent supply of gas and heating oil, households in France, for example, are setting their thermostats a few degrees lower than usual.
These reasons make a compelling case for shifting from energy austerity to long-term energy independence. Energy independence and renewable energy deployment will increasingly go hand in hand in Europe and elsewhere. As fossil fuels become more unpredictable, expensive, and risky, renewable energy is taking a different path: it is less costly, more widely available, and more adaptable in deployment.
9. Maintaining Control of the Climate Crisis
In 2023, it will be evident that humanity will avert the worst-case climate crisis scenarios while still causing significant global harm to populations and environmental systems. This was one of the many critical subjects discussed during COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, this past November, notably the significance of staying near the 1.5°C limit specified in the Paris Agreement as possible. Realistically — or instead, scientifically — we’re unlikely to meet this goal. Based on current rates of implementing emissions reduction plans, we are on course for a 2.5°C increase in global temperatures by 2100, according to the UN Climate Change.
Several governments, organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) reaffirmed their commitment to decreasing emissions and increasing measures to limit global warming. Many discussions emphasized the significance of this aim, and governments were asked to raise their targets and expedite their efforts by the end of 2023.
10. ESG = Compliance + Investment + Risk, Sustainability = Business Model + Value Chain
Companies that fail to include ESG issues in their company strategy and structure are statistically more likely to face scandals, reputational damage, and governance failures. According to a recent Sustainalytics analysis, public companies that encounter high to severe ESG incidents lose 6% of their market capitalization on average. Markets are genuinely moved by ESG and sustainability issues.
Organizations are becoming more conscious of incorporating sustainability into their business goals and basic operating procedures. Similarly, by 2023, more firms will acknowledge that ESG must be addressed as a primary risk and compliance discipline.
The issues we faced in 2023, such as geopolitical upheaval, inflation, and the effects of climate change, may linger, but we can still progress toward sustainability. That being stated, there is an urgent need to focus on what is essential. We have much to do this year – and in the years ahead. There is enormous worldwide positive momentum toward sustainability as we approach 2024, and it is up to all of us to foster and sustain it.
With these top ten sustainability news, we are optimistic that, with new rules, renewed commitments, and more public knowledge about sustainability, we can positively impact the globe and continue to partner with companies and individuals doing their part to make the world more sustainable.
Q1. What are the three Rs of long-term sustainability?
Plastic reduction, reuse, and recycling are critical in combating the devastation caused by climate change. Plastics are a prime source of pollution on the planet. Plastic product overproduction and low recycling rates endanger our world.
Q2. What will be the most significant ESG trend in 2024?
As the next significant ESG trend, “climate positivity” will surpass net zero. In this case, a company’s operations release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Sustainable Investing- The shift toward sustainable investing will continue in 2024.
Q3. What exactly is ESG 2030?
Regarding the UN, ESG is a subset of goals defined by the UN to assist firms and organizations in accomplishing sustainable development practices. As of now, 17 targets have been proposed as development goals for 2030.
Also Read: 20 Inspiring Sustainability Quotes & Sayings