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Our Insights 21 Jan 2014

SustainAbility’s Ten Trends from 2013

By Mohammed Al-Shawaf

In December we wrote about the top trends that our team tracked in 2013. If you missed them, here’s a summary to help you navigate to the main articles.

  1. Mind the Gap: The Business of Inequality
    The presidents of China and the USA and a growing number of investors are speaking publically about the urgent need to close the income inequality gap.
  2. Tell Me A (Positive) Story
    According to Paul Hawken, “the catastrophization of the future freezes people”. In 2013 we started to see the emergence of a more ‘flourishing future’ counter-narrative.
  3. Waste Not, Want Not
    From 1900 to 2000, global population increased fourfold, but the waste we produced increased tenfold. Some are now seeing the growth in waste as a real business opportunity.
  4. Battle Lines Being Redrawn as Activism Heats Up
    For all the attention ‘campaigning NGOs’ have received in 2013 due to high-profile stunts, the ongoing fossil fuel divestment movement is the most significant.
  5. Women: Linchpins of Sustainable Development
    Gender inequality and discrimination reinforce all other forms of inequality, and there are increasing calls for the private sector to take action on this issue.
  6. The Future of Traceability: From Line of Sight to Roots of Collaboration
    The horsemeat scandal in Europe and other supply chain failings are serving to catalyse the emergence of technologies that can trace a product’s journey from source to store.
  7. Cities, Disruptive
    City governments are beginning to set the standard for effective sustainability policymaking, with a willingness to do things differently and disrupt the status quo.
  8. The Financial Engineering We Need
    The phrase ‘financial engineering’ has come to have negative connotations, but new approaches are promising beneficial social and environmental outcomes.
  9. The Future of Energy Has Never Been More Uncertain
    Several organizations published long-term energy forecasts, but a variety of technical, environmental and societal factors are serving to make their predictions more uncertain than ever.
  10. Toxics Timebomb
    Last year the WHO and UNEP concluded that toxic chemicals pose a global health threat. National governments have been slow to respond, but some companies are acting now.

For over 25 years, companies have valued our ability to serve as their early warning system—to interpret emerging issues and trends in the sustainable development agenda and help them anticipate, understand and respond to shifts in the business landscape. In 2013, SustainAbility re-launched a dedicated function to regularly track and interpret “what’s next”—our Ten Trends of 2013 series is the distillation and public output of our thinking over the year.

If you’re interested in learning more about our trends service for your business, contact Mohammed Al-Shawaf or Michael Sadowski.



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