From Sustainability to Purpose: Refocus on the Planet

March 2021

With the UN Climate Change conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow, 2021 is set to be an important year to tackle environmental risks. While the strong focus on social issues during 2020 will prevail in 2021, the environmental side will emerge stronger than pre-pandemic. This also ties into the idea of building back better as part of the recovery, with many companies and governments showing their commitments for a green recovery.

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Key Findings

2020 was the year of social issues

The pandemic pushed health and safety to the top of the agenda with two thirds of surveyed companies now defining sustainability as “supporting local communities” (Voice of the Industry: Sustainability survey, 2020). This is a 15- percentage-point increase compared to 2019.

Companies across all sectors had to step up and help countries to solve problems, providing essential products such as ventilators, face masks, and hand sanitisers, or free services such as video conferencing, mobile broadband or taxi drives.

Planetary health top of mind in 2021

But 2020 was also a year of sustainability milestones, with emissions levels dropping dramatically and renewable energy beating fossil fuels. The year ahead (2021) offers an opportunity to build back a greener world, with the three biggest and most polluting economies – the US, China and the EU – rowing in the same direction, pledging to quit fossil fuels.

Fixing the planet – “it’s now or never”

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) showing how quick behavioural changes from both companies and consumers are possible, addressing environmental risks has become more urgent than ever.

While consumers lifestyle changes are required to protect the planet for future generations, if brands are to stay operational and profitable in the next 50-100 years, they need to stop taking things for granted. There are invaluable assets beyond their balance sheets that need to be prioritised and protected. It is not philanthropy, it is investing for the future.

Sustainable innovation for a green recovery

With many countries and businesses calling for a green recovery from COVID-19, there are huge opportunities for sustainable innovation across all industries. It is a great framework to reconfigure businesses to sync with nature to allow planetary healing. Reconciling economic, social, and environmental health is the way forward for a resilient recovery.

Investments for the planet

The renewed interest in addressing the planetary crisis is expected to drive investments that enable the world to achieve a circular net-zero economy, unlocking opportunities for cutting-edge collaborations across all sectors.


Key findings

Planetary Emergency

Why now?
Social issues are gaining consumer attention following the pandemic…
… but the planet remains top of mind
The Natural History Museum declares a “planetary emergency”

Health, Beauty and Fashion

Health, beauty and fashion: pressure arises to fight for the planet
Health, beauty and fashion: COVID-19 impact on planet initiatives
Health, beauty and fashion: innovation for the planet
Allbirds: green is the new black
Levi Strauss & Co: championing sustainability through SecondHand
Health, beauty and fashion: technology to drive planetary investments
Estée Lauder Cos Inc: a glimpse into the future

Drinks and Tobacco

Drinks and tobacco: environmental action gathering pace
Drinks and tobacco: COVID-19 impact on environmental initiatives
Drinks and tobacco: innovation for the planet
Heineken: Sol brewed with solar power in renewable energy push
Nestlé & JDE Peet’s: joint launch of Podback coffee pod recycling scheme
Drinks and tobacco: renewable and regenerative progress to accelerate
Asahi Group: a glimpse into the future

Food and Nutrition

Increased focus on the planet from food and beverages businesses
Food and nutrition: COVID-19 pausing environmental initiatives
Food and nutrition: innovation for the planet
PepsiCo and Beyond Meat venture set to accelerate plant-based snacking
Inspired Pet Nutrition first pet player to go climate negative in the UK
Waste and energy initiatives are priority areas for food companies
Unilever: a glimpse into the future

Home and Technology

Home and technology: a tale of two types
Home and technology: COVID-19 impact on environmental initiatives
Home and technology: innovation for the planet
Bosch: “Sustainable #LikeABosch”
Procter & Gamble: the 50L Home
Home and technology: time for new partnerships for the planet
Kohler: a glimpse into the future

Services and Payments

Services and payments companies lag behind in tackling climate change
Services and payments: COVID-19 impact on climate initiatives
Services and payments: innovation for the planet
EasyJet: committed to its vision for climate-friendly travel
Walmart: embraces the online circular economy
Services and payments: ramping up for the decade of action
Kering: a glimpse into the future


Fixing the planet is on the business agenda
Sustainability solutions to watch


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