13th March 2019

The seven key themes to strengthen sustainable impact for 2019

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There are seven trends to follow this year if you want to focus on improving sustainable business practice and performance, according to a global consulting and standards firm.

AccountAbility has conducted in-depth research and advisory work with clients in the US, Europe and Middle East, to enable it to set out the trends that will steer companies and organisations towards successfully managing their impact for 2019.

The company, which has been ranked among the Top Sustainability Management Consulting Firms by the Financial Times for two years running, offers practical solutions and provides strategies for corporate responsibility to help progress performance and improve operations.

Embracing sustainability is vital for businesses that are committed to making a long-term impact on a variety of environmental issues, from climate change to supporting the circular economy.

Well-established business leaders have recognized the connection between competitiveness and sustainability when it comes to the performance of their companies, with an emphasis on disclosure requirements, reporting frameworks and more meaningful metrics being carried out.

Sunil A. Misser, CEO of AccountAbility, said: “The global community recognizes sustainability as a business imperative with long-term impact – organizations are setting new precedents, commitments and standards in response to shifting stakeholder demands for active management.

“Businesses will need to continue to adapt as these developments evolve and escalate in the coming year. We discuss how the following seven sustainability trends will guide and shape the landscape of sustainable business over the coming year.”

The following seven trends each include ‘key takeaways’ and recommendations to help guide readers to stay at the forefront of each trend.

1. Collaboration for Climate Action – 195 countries have successfully committed to a “rule book” for climate action. The Science Based Targets Initiative is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and the We Mean Business Coalition, which aims to establish science-based target setting as a standard business practice by 2020. Suggestions for companies who want to jump onboard include conducting a structured assessment of how your organization can establish science-based targets.

2. SMARTer Contributions to the SDGs – Companies are being driven (to some extent by consumer expectations) to make “real” contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). $5-7 trillion is required annually to achieve the UN SDGs and staying ahead of the trend will include establishing SDG initiatives and commitments that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). In addition to this, progress must be reported completely, consistently and accurately.

3. From Output to Impact – Growing investor demand requires visible long–term value creation. The new baseline for sustainability performance is managing impact, according to AccountAbility. Corporate leaders are now turning towards building, owning and sharing stories of impact that are measurable and meaningful and the key advice for businesses include applying relevant methodologies and frameworks to evaluate, manage and communicate sustainability and business performance.

4. Supply Chain Intelligence – Consumer and regulatory pressures have triggered a need for transparent supply chains. Better accountability of ethical business practices requires a more transparent supply chain and AccountAbility anticipates a continuing rise in regulatory pressures around supply chains, especially when it comes to slavery, human rights and trafficking. Businesses and organisations will require contemporary and innovative practices to satisfy transparency and disclosure demands. Staying ahead of the trend will involve openly and honestly communicating supply chain management efforts, progress and results.

5. Shift to Circularity – The shift from a linear to a circular economy means a sharp focus is on reducing environmental impacts with a strong emphasis on reusing, repurposing and restoring products, by implementing a sustainable design and minimising waste and emissions. A $24 billion stimulus package has been announced to facilitate circular economies in Europe, with AccountAbility anticipating that the shift towards circularity will accelerate to keep resources in use for as long as possible, while minimizing the negative impact. A formal Lifecycle Analysis could be carried out to study the true cost and impact of your business’s products and services.

6. Rapid Urbanization – The smart cities market is expected to reach $3.5 trillion by the mid-2020s, with 55 percent of the world’s population currently living in cities (which is predicted to increase to 68 percent by 2050). Businesses will play a major role in helping to improve quality of life as more people adopt an urban lifestyle, with advances in infrastructure and technology aiming to lower environmental and social impact. AccountAbility notes that companies in all sectors will need to redesign their business models to adapt to the shifting landscape and rise of “smart” and sustainable cities

7. Automation Drives Sustainability – The global market for autonomous vehicles will be $556.67 billion by 2026. Years of research have already been ploughed into this concept and already we are heading towards a different transportation future, with GPS and parking assistance technologies already adopted. However, according to research, 60 percent of people are still not enthusiastic about autonomous vehicles and 56 percent would not want to travel in one. That said, with premature deaths linked to air pollution and vehicles emitting greenhouse gas emissions into the environment, there are pros for self-driving cars. Road accidents are expected to be lowered through lack of human error present, including tiredness or driving under the influence of alcohol and less fuel is expected to be used through means including unnecessary accelerating or braking (allowing for lower emissions). AccountAbility expects autonomous transportation focus and innovation to escalate this year, with vehicles and infrastructure increasingly recognized as hardware and software with accelerating intelligence.

To view AccountAbility’s full report summarizing the seven sustainability trends, go to: www.accountability.org