Sustainability Trends to Watch for in 2013

It’s a new year! So after you’ve headed to the gym, put down your smokes, taken up a new hobby and willed yourself to stick to your resolutions for a few days, take a look at our predictions for the world of sustainability in 2013:

Corporate Social Responsibility shifts into high gear. More and more companies are seeing the value of being absolutely transparent about their business practices. According to a 2012 G&A Institute study, 53% of companies in the S&P 500 published progress reports on their sustainability efforts last year. Only 20% of these same S&P 500 companies reported their progress in 2010. Expect that upward trend to continue in 2013. And expect that the companies who are the most transparent – and actually doing the right things – are the ones who will reap the biggest rewards from consumers, particularly Millenials.

Sustainable packaging grows. Excess packaging is a major complaint from many consumers about the products they purchase. Not only is a lot of packaging unnecessary, it’s often non-recyclable. Most companies are all over this (as evidenced by the proliferation of sustainable packaging conferences and their growing attendance over the last few years), so expect to see some interesting packaging innovations this year.

Water issues pushed further into the light. We’ve long known that water is a precious and finite resource, but for most Americans, it’s cheap and easy to come by, so we fail to treat it as though it’s precious. This year, that may begin to change. With over a billion people worldwide now not having access to clean drinking water, it will be a mainstay in the press. And with the prolonged droughts in middle-America last year, the issue should begin to hit home. (We’ve long seen in our research that when Americans are touched or someone they love is touched by the effects of environmental issues, they jump on the green train pretty quickly). Expect to see more water usage quotas and laws drawn up in 2013 to help minimize the damage.

Increased green legislation. At the state and local levels we should expect to see even more legislation this year – legislation designed to deal with the fiscal crisis many municipalities find themselves in, disguised as legislation designed to improve the environment.  We could see increased taxes/costs applied to waste disposal and certain chemicals banned (with fines handed out to manufacturers who don’t ban them).

Improved definitions of sustainability. There are a lot of buzzwords associated with environmental sustainability, such as “carbon footprint” and “hyper-miling.” Even “sustainability.”  However, the vast majority of Americans have no idea what many of these terms actually mean. Most companies are now aware of this and see that they have a window of opportunity to define sustainability on their terms and begin to engage consumers around that definition.  Expect to see more of this refining and defining in 2013.

We’ll revisit this in December and see if we were right…in the meantime, here’s to another year of improved energy efficiency, sustainability and social responsibility!

About the Author

Pat Lorentz

Pat is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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