What’s coming in Sustainability in 2024?
Happy New Year to all our readers! It’s that time of year when I dust off the old crystal ball and consider what’s ahead of us for Sustainability in 2024.
From a corporate point of view, I predict the rift between those businesses grasping the nettle on Sustainability and those placing all their bets on a horse called Wishful Thinking will become increasingly apparent – to the painful cost of the latter. Case in point: last summer I did a compare and contrast between the Sustainability Reports of a global electronics brand, on behalf of whom whom an intermediary was sounding me out, and the best in class amongst its rivals. Side-by-side, the difference was extraordinary – ‘best in class’ was probably a decade ahead. That collaboration hasn’t come to fruition as yet (I expect it never will), but they clearly do need to face reality as the stakes are rising, which takes us to…
It’s not just NGOs who are holding corporates to account. Mandatory reporting such as that required by the FTSE100 is increasingly shining a light on progress. But there are other guardians of probity – here in the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is fast becoming the scourge of greenwash and no-one is immune from their rulings – expect more high profile victims in 2024.
But the big question this year is political will. An incredible 25+% (some say 50%) of the world’s population will go to the ballot box this year.
Here in the UK, the two main parties seem to be caught in their own quandaries. The ruling Tory party looked poised to run a populist anti-green campaign following their surprise narrow victory in the Uxbridge by-election which was widely attributed to antipathy towards Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion. However, PM Sunak’s subsequent watering down of Net Zero commitments led to a sustained 2-4% drop in the polls, suggesting Uxbridge was an outlier.
The challenging Labour Party, riding high in the polls, sometimes seems scared of its own shadow. Having already watered down its eye-catching policy of investing £28 billion per annum in green capital investment, there are rumours of further backtracking in case the policy attracts further Tory fire. This seems to miss the point that political parties always attack their opponents’ policy platform, and will make an even bigger fuss over u-turns/policy wobbles. It should be noted that Labour’s Uxbridge candidate prevaricated over ULEZ and it did him no good.
Obviously the US election is the big one. If Donald Trump can stay out of jail and get back into the White House, what will happen to the substantial green measures in President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)? Who knows?! However, I wouldn’t assume that they will be binned – if they continue to drive economic growth, Trump may turn a blind eye to them.
Given the violence in the Middle East is likely to continue to ripple outwards, I see oil and gas prices remaining high. The twin drivers of prices and energy security will make homegrown, renewable energy increasingly desirable on purely economic grounds. The increasing uptake of electric vehicles and heat pumps in particular will lead to a fall in prices and new innovations – a virtuous circle which will accelerate progress.
As always, I’m mildly optimistic, but not naive. If we want Sustainability to change, we need to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in! If you need a bit of inspiration to get you going in 2024, join us on 17 Jan for 12½ Kick Ass Sustainability Ideas for 2024 – does what it says on the tin!