All Is Not Lost - Trends In Sustainability In 2020

By Aoife Delaney, Director of Marketing & Sales, the DMC Network and President-Elect, SITE

While we are continuing to navigate through this CoVid19 landscape and adjust our business models to work within this new world, we mustn’t forget that many of the priorities that were important to us and our clients last year will remain, and some, in fact, will be enhanced.  For me, I feel sustainability will be one of those areas.  If anything, this year has taught us how fragile our earth is, and how easily we can take it for granted.

I find the world of sustainability fascinating.  Yes, because it is a way to educate myself on ways to look after our planet, but also because of the sheer range that the title encompasses.  I would imagine that we are all in the same boat in our initial thinking that ‘being sustainable’ is all about recycling and reducing waste, right?  And it’s only when we have really started to pay attention to this area in recent years that we have realised just how much sustainability encompasses.

Here are just a few of the trends that have come up within sustainability that have stood out to me, all being areas that can be weaved into the way that we work.

Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR)

We have all heard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but have you heard of Corporate Digital Responsibility?

CDR is the use of digital technologies to promote ethical and sustainable business practices, and this year we have seen numerous companies coming forward with this focus.

Within that, there are several areas the company can focus on: Social digital responsibility - this is where the company has practices around proper employee privacy, digital diversity and inclusion, ensuring that their teams privacy is monitored online, and that there is an inclusive environment in every aspect of the company –including how the company is represented across, for example, social media channels.

Economic digital responsibility is another area of focus for companies- taking into account the replacement of jobs by technology and the impact that has, as well as the changing nature of jobs through things like the gig economy (something that we have all had to adjust to within our industry)

Environmental digital responsibility is another area under this umbrella that companies are focusing on, which includes the responsible recycling of e-waste and the power usage of technologies.

Circular Solutions

Circular thinking is where a company focuses on keeping resources in use for as long as possible in order to keep resources in use for as long as possible in order to extract the maximum value. For example: take-back schemes, substituting finite materials for renewable ones, redesigning products to use less materials and energy.  Currently the world is only at a 8.6% circular model, but 2020 has shown this as a trend that more companies are embracing.  Take Starbucks as an example, who committed to becoming a resource-positive company at the beginning of this year.  This will see them eventually storing more carbon than they emit, eliminating waste, and providing more clean fresh water than they use.

The Fashion and Luxury Good Industry

The fashion industry is responsible for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and there is a growing number of consumers that are recognizing the impact that this is having on our earth.  Many brands are now embracing sustainability within their practices and focusing on offerings such as made-to-order pieces (to avoid waste) , sourcing more ethical production partners,  and pledging to cut their carbon emissions.  There is also steer away from the traditional ‘fast fashion’ and a focus on investment pieces made by local designers.

Human Capital

2020 has certainly showed us the value and importance of employee well-being within a company.   Unaddressed stressful work situations, poor mental health, and a lack of flexibility in working schedules effect the employee, and as such, quite simply, the company’s bottom line.  We have yet to see a global consensus on how to create a metric for the value of human capital, but this year has seen many companies looking for ways to enhance their employee’s well-being, and are seeing the benefit from it.  Take Microsoft, who introduced a 4-day working week in Japan and see a 40% increase in productivity.