Six reasons to be optimistic about the future of sustainability in business

Six reasons to be optimistic about the future of sustainability in business

With a warming climate looming and short-term thinking and political cycles slowing the urgent progress needed to solve our ever-growing sustainability challenges – there are still several reasons to be optimistic about the future of sustainability in business. Here are some key reasons for hope.

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1. A global economy in transition

There have been immense shifts toward decarbonising the global economy and moving toward more circular business models in 2020/2021 – and each year this momentum continues to grow. We are now seeing more large corporates and small businesses committing to measure and report on their social and environmental impact, while also choosing to certify their businesses against verified sustainability standards. Organisations committing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 is increasingly becoming the norm, further spurred on by investors and financiers moving their money away from fossil fuels and other sectors hindering the transition. 

2. Growing consumer demand & expectations

With increasing awareness of the interconnected relationship between business and social and environmental systems, comes a rising demand for goods and services that are sourced, produced, and delivered in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Consumers are holding businesses accountable and therefore raising the bar to create new benchmarks for what is expected and accepted. Organisations that fall short of these expectations, face the rising risks of being faced with greenwashing criticisms and losing social licenses to operate. 

3. Lessons from the pandemic

If we are to look for silver linings from the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps one prominent lesson for sustainability in business is that challenges can often bring out the best in people. The pandemic has certainly taught us all about how to effectively (and ineffectively) respond to a crisis by working collaboratively, quickly, and creatively – all valuable lessons for the business world to consider in responding to the climate crisis. 

4. Levers yet to be used

While progress is gaining momentum, there are many levers that have not yet been used to help businesses solve complex sustainability challenges. This is particularly evident when it comes to legislation within the business world. For example (with a few minor exceptions), currently all sustainability reporting is voluntary in Australia – but it is unlikely it will remain this way for much longer if movements elsewhere are anything to go by. We don’t have to look far to see legislative transitions taking place, with our friends across the ditch in New Zealand recently becoming the first country in the world to mandate climate risk reporting for banks, asset managers, and insurers.

5. Human ingenuity

Remember that time we invented the automobile, put people on the moon, and invented that thing called the internet? It is easy to forget the magnitude of human ingenuity over the last few centuries. But our track record of being imaginative and creative problem-solvers is strong. Therefore, working collaboratively to find creative solutions to the social and environmental challenges we face today is not impossible if history is anything to go by.

6. It makes good business sense

At the end of the day, studies show that purpose-driven businesses outperform their competitors and are more resilient in the face of organisational shocks and stresses over time. Ultimately, a business that is good for people and the planet – is just good business. 

While the stakes are high, it can be argued that these reasons to be optimistic about the future of sustainability in business pose an exciting opportunity for organisations – large and small – to participate in what is shaping up to be the biggest social and environmental movement in history. Are you with us?

Rewild, founded by Abbie Freestone, is a strategic sustainability consultancy based in Melbourne, helping organisations with sustainability measurement, strategy & communication.

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