12 Sustainability Trends That Will Change 2021 - And Beyond
What are the sustainable trends that are really going to shape this year - and the world? Find out what these eco experts think.
So what is the world going to look like by the end of the year and what sustainable trends are really come to come to the forefront and bubble over into the mainstream?
From consultants and investors to charity CEOs, conservationists and authors and activist actors, we asked a wide range of expersts on what the biggest sustainable trends will be that will shape 2021 - and crucially the years to come.
We need systematic change, bold ideas and radical rethinking of how industries and consumption work - so how are we going to get there?
Scroll down to see where our interviewees think we're going and how.
Let us know what you think, via the comments at the end. Do they inspire you to enable or make a change?
12 Sustainability Trends That Will Change 2021 - And Beyond
1. Companies will be forced by government regulations to disclose their climate risks to the public
Dr Brosnan, President of Deborah Brosnan & Associates & marine explorer
This will lead to big changes for companies in their share prices, financing options, willingness of investors to invest, and it will promote more scrutiny and activism by shareholders. Consumers, especially the younger generation, will pay attention and it will affect their purchasing choices. It’s already happening in Europe and will soon spread to the US primarily through the SEC. Companies that are out ahead and can show how well they are managing risks and contributing to the environment and social well-being will have greater success. Those that aren’t will suffer consequences.
2. Clean air becomes a bigger issue
Matt Haslum, Managing Director, Chelsea Green Publishing
I think there will be lots of trend in self care and wellness in 2021, both mental health and boosting immune systems. I think clean air will be a HUGE issue in 2021, as we are seeing landmark cases of kids’ deaths that are being attributed to car-based pollution in cities.
3. Electric cars will become a mainstream purchase
Chris Packham, Wildlife TV presenter & conservationist
Electric cars for me - looking at the EC market there some exciting new cars coming out. They look funky and they’ve got really good range and more people will find the confidence to go down the electric car route. They are also coming down in price so making it more affordable. Before they were an expensive proposition but now it’s more manageable. And having got one I will never go back!
4. Climate change has to go back on the agenda
Trewin Restorick, CEO, Hubbub
2021 will see a renewed focus on global efforts to fight climate change. The COP26 event in Glasgow will see governments and companies taking increased steps to reduce climate change emissions. The return of the USA to the Paris Climate Commitment will build added momentum reinforced by growing citizen concern.
The impact of COVID-19 has tragically shown what happens if you don’t give serious attention to a known long-term risk and as a result progressive organisations have realised that they need to urgently act to reduce the global threat of climate change. This increased realisation coupled with the falling costs of renewable energy and sustainable technologies will hasten the transition to a low carbon world.
5. On demand apps can help the fight against waste
Petrice Jones, Actor, Environmentalist and CEO of The One Movement
We could see a lot of technology meeting sustainability. Potentially apps and services mimicking Postmates/UberEats model with reusable containers for restaurants.
In the same way groceries and other types of packaging where reusable solutions could be made available upon request with requirements to return.
There also becomes a huge opportunity to utilise a subscription model where pick-up of empty containers and delivery of refilled containers happen at the same time.
6. Consumers will embrace everyday sustainable options
I think it will be the idea that we can all embrace a ‘climate-friendly’ lifestyle - broad, mainstream acceptance that shifts in how we eat, shop, travel, invest and vote can ladder up to massive impact on a societal level that allows us to collectively deal with the climate crisis.
One of the biggest trends I suspect for 2021 will be leading a waste free, covid free life - and minimising the repercussions of a very wasteful year, when you look at the masks being thrown away daily, a lot of them just being carelessly thrown on the streets. This combined with a rise in our single use plastic consumption in 2020 because of Covid-19 is something businesses and governments are going to have to deal with this year.
7. Consumers want real change and leadership
Sian Conway, founder of Ethical Hour
In 2021 I think we're going to see much more political pressure when it comes to sustainability. The conversation has (finally) made its way into the political sphere in many countries, and played a big part in the US election. We've got COP26 coming up, and a huge groundswell of public awareness behind the movement now.
Many consumers have done what they can to make more conscious choices, but are starting to realise the power that corporations wield, and that conscious consumerism alone isn't enough, and that big business often won't change unless the legislation changes.
In 2020 with the pandemic we've seen what can be achieved in a short space of time when the political will is there, and I think people are now less willing to tolerate weak climate policies and lengthy 2050 targets. It's time for change and citizens are ready to raise their voice and make it happen!.
8. Cities are leading the way with bold ideas
Rob Hopkins, author of From What Is To What If
I think it will be an increased boldness in the ambition and the scale of what we allow ourselves to imagine what might be possible. I have loved the stories of, for example, Barcelona turning one third of its city centre streets into forests and places for play, or the plans to convert Nottingham's Broadmarsh shopping centre into a mixture of wetlands, woodlands and wildflower meadows.
It will be a time when big bold ideas for reimagining how cities feed and power themselves, create new jobs and engage and retrain people will become the norm. As Naomi Klein once put it, "there are no non-radical solutions left'.
It will be a time when cities are out-competing each other to get to zero carbon first and to come up with the most imaginative strategies for doing so. So for me, the big trend will be boldness, imagination, and the ability to ask really big and ambitious What If questions.
"It will be a time when big bold ideas for reimagining how cities feed and power themselves, create new jobs and engage and retrain people will become the norm"
9. Reconnecting with nature will continue and drive a new passion for the environment
Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale
If the global pandemic showed us anything it was how important nature is to our daily lives, our sense of well-being and to the long-term survivability of our species. In monitoring global trends, my team at Lonely Whale identified connection to nature as an emerging trend in 2020 that I believe will only continue to grow exponentially in 2021 as we look for solace, serenity and answers to a better future.
Whether you connect to nature through long, slow walks outside or tending to your houseplants we all share something in common - we’re now noticing things are different. The sky seems bluer, the air is more breathable, and nature seems louder. One of our favorite observations is how the birds seem louder when in reality we humans are quieter and now we can hear the birds sing.
2021 will bring forth greater awareness of the importance of nature in our daily lives. It will harken in a new era where we rediscover who we are through our experiences with nature and how we relate to each other.
At the centre of this environmental trend will be renewed energy and passion to fight with everything that we have to replenish, nurture and protect nature and ultimately ourselves.
10. Alternative protein is where it’s at
Francesco Majno, founder, Small Giants
The upcoming decade is expected to witness an unprecedented transition from traditional meat-based proteins to a wider range of alternatives. Among the different alternatives, insects are among the most promising ones. They are incredibly sustainable and super high in protein. I don’t think 2021 will be ‘the year’ for edible insects in the west but one of the years that will lead towards this ‘small giant’ food revolution.
Consumers are increasingly more aware of the health advantages and positive environmental impact of these alternatives and the demand is rising.
11. Ethical investing is now a mainstream issue
Chris Duncan, Director of Communications, Client Earth
Climate-friendly pensions are becoming more important. Almost every single working person in the UK is now a pension fund member and the whole market is worth £2.2 trillion but it’s almost impossible for individuals to find out where their own money is invested.
We know that much of it will be invested in industries that are fuelling climate change and consumers are waking up to that. We expect to see a much bigger range of green pension options in 2021.
"The upcoming decade is expected to witness an unprecedented transition from traditional meat-based proteins to a wider range of alternatives"
12. Say hello to the bio-economy
Murray Gray, Head of Commercial & Operations, Metabolic Ventures
I see a continuing growth of focus on "bio" topics, in a couple of manifestations. First, an increased focus on biodiversity, as an understanding of its vital role in maintaining our planet's healthy carrying capacity.
Second, an increased focus on a transition to a bio-economy - that is shifting from non-renewable, "dirty" inputs to renewable ones. This will primarily be in the form of replacing fossil fuel based inputs.
However, this is a complex transition to mak sustainably, due to the existing pressure on the planet's carrying capacity from agriculture, and the expected doubling of demand for food by 2050. Addressing this complex challenge is a key focus of our work within our Metabolic Ventures team.
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