The year ahead for sustainability, by Al Masaood Group’s Marwa Kaabour
Well, the big news is that the United States, under the presidency of Joe Biden re-entered the Paris Climate Agreement in February 2020.
Nearly 200 nations have signed on to this landmark agreement and committed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius – preferably below 1.5 degrees Celsius – which is the temperature of pre-industrial times.
Although it calls for collective action from almost all world nations, the Paris Agreement does not, however, impose legal penalties on nations that do not meet their intended national determined contributions (INDCs). However, we all know that there is a consequence to poor behaviour and that if countries don’t deliver their intended contribution, global GDP will drop in years to come.
Renewable energy is becoming increasingly cheaper
Fossil fuels used to be much cheaper than renewable energy, but that is quickly changing. According to the IEA’s Renewables Report in 2020 wind and solar plants have become 70 per cent and 89 per cent cheaper respectively in the last 10 years and, their capacity will exceed coal and gas in the next five years. In fact, solar power is now cheaper than coal.
Brands committing to circular economies
A circular economy is a dream economy where waste is eliminated, resources are circulated and nature is regenerated.
Global brands that we represent, like Bridgestone, the number one tyre brand in the world, are investing in circular economies and carbon neutrality across all group businesses from sales to the production of eco-tyres.
Total Energies, another brand we represent in Abu Dhabi, has set nearly 25 per cent of its investments on renewables. This year, Total revealed a complete re-branding of its identity. First, it changed its name from Total to Total Energies and launched a new logo that represents its circular strategy. The new logo’s vibrant colours represent fuel energy, and growth.
Climate change is no longer an environmental problem only; it’s a business problem
If there’s one thing, we’ve seen from the 2020s massively sad bushfires it is that climate change is causing extreme weather conditions and extreme weather is affecting the availability and cost of raw materials for companies.
Extreme weather is also causing much harsher working conditions, which increase the cost of health and safety of employees. This decade has been the hottest ever in the recorded history of the planet. Can you imagine what the future would be like for the labour communities?
Waste-to-energy (WtE) systems growing rapidly
The percentage of people living in urban areas has risen in every continent over the years. More than half of the world’s population today lives in cities. This is rapidly increasing the amount of waste produced, and by the same token is paving the way for rapid growth in waste-to-energy (WtE) systems.
WtE is the process of generating electricity or heat from the aggressive recycling of rubbish.
A new report from Pike Research last year showed WtE systems are treating close to 261 million tons of waste a year.
But the world generates 2 billion tons of waste in a year, so this only treats 13 per cent of that total.
The media will start focusing on the rubbish crisis in space
There are more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, or ‘space junk’, that are floating around Earth. The role of governments in space will shift from launching missions and space research to answering the growing concern around this space junk.
Low carbon becomes the priority in environmental goals
Communication on sustainability started taking shape in the late 1970s and 1980s when it was focused on energy and renewables, but today the priory is purely on low-carbon and net-zeros.
We have less than a decade to prevent a devastating level of global warming, reaching 4 degrees Celsius.
The UN has rolled out the 1.5 degrees Celcius campaign calling for businesses to step up and do their part in limiting this disaster, and the brands we represent – Nissan, Inifniti, Renault, Total, UD, MTU, Volvo Penta and Bridgestone – have all committed to this global initiative.
Nissan, in fact, was the first Japanese automaker to join the UN Race to Net Zero initiative.
This year at Abu Dhabi’s Boat Show, Al Masaood’s Power Division launched the very first hybrid marine propulsion concept, which is designed to enable zero emissions in marine vessels, the largest pollutants of the oceans.
Data centres shift gear to renewable energy
According to the UN, global e-commerce jumped to $26.7 trillion during the pandemic year and is growing tremendously. But e-commerce comes at the hefty cost of maintaining huge data centres, which consume a lot of electricity. Therefore, a lot of data centres are increasingly turning to renewable energy.
Alternative meat is the new thing on the menu
Food production is currently responsible for 26 per cent of greenhouse gases and has a major part to play in habitat destruction and freshwater consumption. In the US, farms produce more emissions than car factories do. According to Nielsen, sales of meat alternatives in 2020 went up by 140 per cent in the US alone and are expected to grow at the same crazy rate in the coming year.
Governments find better ways to combat greenwashing through ESG ratings
Governments are finally launching environmental, social and governance scores, which can be affected if companies carry out ‘greenwashing’ tactics.
We see gamification making its way into sustainability awareness
Imagine Spider-Man trying to save a city from a flood or the world of Civilization facing biodiversity loss and resource depletion. Actually, some massively popular games are already treading such paths. Monitoring ecosystem health is already a part of SimCity, and Minecraft has a special mode featuring climate change, carbon taxes, and emissions offsets through planting trees
Walmart used gaming techniques and launched ‘My Sustainability Plan’. This helps employees understand how their individual actions, when combined with those of their 2 million colleagues, can make a difference.
Communication trends in sustainability and CSR Communication in 2022:
More financial disclosures in sustainability and CSR reporting Companies are finally dropping the idea that there’s a difference between the financial and non-financial value in the study of sustainability. In 2020, 40 per cent of sustainability reports had financial data, as opposed to 33 per cent in previous years.
Employees and customers call upon companies to act responsibility Although Amazon offered jobs during the time people were losing jobs, and recently announced 55,000 new roles in tech, in September more than 1,500 Amazon employees walked off their jobs to raise awareness for climate change and called on the company and then-CEO Jeff Bezos to do more.
Inclusion goes beyond the workforce Companies like Bloomberg have launched diversity and inclusion champions programmes in each of their businesses to monitor and audit the need for increasing diversity in their teams and to provide opportunities for women and underrepresented ethnicities. Part of their inclusion also extended beyond the workplace to vendors.