2022: The year business truly takes the lead on sustainability

by Jan 12, 2022

Shelton Stat of the Week

One in three Americans says they have chosen or stopped purchasing a product because of the environmental record of its manufacturer. And 26% can name the brand. — Eco Pulse®, January 2021

You don’t even have to believe in climate change to see that sustainability is the most exciting business opportunity and driver for innovation that we’ve seen in a long time.

I heard that in a client call this morning. And then I read Thomas Friedman’s January 4 opinion piece in The New York Times, which was about January 6 and fear for our democracy’s future (which we’re going to refrain from getting into here), but a paragraph in his piece rang true for sustainability as well:

I think our last best hope is the leadership of the U.S. business community, specifically the Business Roundtable, led by General Motors C.E.O. Mary Barra, and the Business Council, led by Microsoft C.E.O. Satya Nadella. Together, those two groups represent the roughly 200 most powerful companies in America, with 20 million employees. Although formally nonpartisan, they lean center-right — the old center-right, the one that believed in the rule of law, free markets, majority rule, science, and the sanctity of our elections and constitutional processes.

Business has already been significantly upping its game on sustainability over the last few years:

  • In November, the Science Based Targets Initiative announced that 1,045 companies with a market cap of more than $23 trillion are now setting targets aligned with the 1.5°C threshold required to avert a climate disaster.
  • In October, the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) announced that “over 13,000 companies, worth over 64% of global market capitalization, disclosed their environmental data through CDP, an increase of 37% since 2020.”
  • EcoVadis now collaborates with 85,000 businesses worldwide on sustainability ratings and practices.
  • More than 340 companies have made a commitment to go 100% renewable via the RE100.

I think 2022 is the year CEOs fully grab the reins from regulators, politicians and NGOs.

Every CEO knows (or should know by now) that Americans are actively looking to buy good products from good companies (see our report on this) — and we’re behind most of the rest of the developed world in this, so it’s an even larger trend globally.

Every CEO also knows that a big way to win the war for talent is to stand for something people want to work for.

And every CEO knows that, yes, (along with AI) sustainability is a fantastic driver for innovation. When you start with, “What does the world need?” you’re going to come up with new solutions that fall into the sustainability realm.

So, CEOs of the world, follow my lead! Decide that 2022 is the year that sustainability becomes your driver for profitability, for innovation, for long-term growth (and viability), if you haven’t already. Dig deep. Look at what you can REALLY solve, not the same thing everyone else is doing. What world challenges are you uniquely qualified to address? Then set your teams and systems up to go meaningfully solve them. And, as always, tell your story about it. We all need to be inspired amid our fatigue of COVID-19, politics, and so on.

And, truly, if you’re not telling your employees, customers, end-users, suppliers and outside partners what you’re doing for the world, they will all assume you’re not doing anything. And that would be a terrible thing for anybody to assume about you in the Year of Business Leadership on Sustainability.

News of the Week
Sustainable Business Went Mainstream in 2021
Harvard Business Review

As tumultuous as 2021 was, it showed us signs that sustainability and ESG are here to stay for business. This Harvard Business Review piece highlights some of the major events that point toward this trend and what to look out for from businesses in 2022.
Read more…

ESG Resolutions for 2022
Bloomberg Law

Approaching it from a corporate risk perspective, this Bloomberg Law article offers a different approach to explaining the importance of ESG. It also details the basics of ESG and why getting familiar with it should be a priority for businesses in the new year, if they aren’t already.
Read more…

Shoptivism: Why Consumers (& Job Seekers) Opt In & Out of Today’s Brands

Sustainability is now mainstream and it’s affecting purchase behavior.

Every year we ask Americans if they’ve ever intentionally purchased or not purchased a product or service based on the social or environmental record of the manufacturer. We then ask everyone who says “yes” to name the brand. Those who say “yes” and can give an example of a brand unaided? We call them shoptivists.

But who are these “shoptivists?”

Our latest report answers this question with three distinct consumer profiles, including details on their mental models, their shopping patterns, the messages that resonate, and where to find them.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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