Global Sustainability Trends

April 2021

This report provides an overview of the global trends in sustainability that will shape the post COVID-19 world, from climate action and the decarbonisation of the economy to circular businesses, organic and regenerative agriculture and the global race to access natural resources.

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Key findings

Global climate emergency

With the United Nations declaring a Climate Emergency in December 2020, the world faces complex sustainability challenges that could negatively impact life on earth, hinder access to resources and disrupt global supply chains, causing commodity price volatility and international conflicts.

These concerns have increased the world’s appetite for climate-friendly products and renewable energy. The COP26 climate conference, to be held in Glasgow in November 2021, could revive interest in the production and consumption of green energy.

The world needs to “do more with less”

Growing populations and middle-class expansion are putting significant pressure on natural resources, increasing depletion at a faster pace than the planet is able to regenerate.

This is causing environmental damage (pollution, forest and biodiversity loss, water stress, etc), and is also having a negative impact on economies and society, increasing production costs, limiting access to resources and ultimately challenging business growth over the long term. The shift towards circular production and consumption models is becoming a survival imperative for businesses and individuals.

From a “degenerative” to a “regenerative” approach

Environmental degradation is a luxury that the world cannot afford. There is a need to move towards an economy that can regenerate itself. If businesses are to stay operational and profitable in the next 50 to 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.

Giving back to the planet is not philanthropy, it is investing for the future. Over the next years, there will be more collaboration and innovation to create business models that reconnect industrial processes with nature’s cycles. More investment will be directed to the design of planet-compatible products and processes, using nature as a model.

 

Introduction

Scope
Key findings
Global sustainability snapshot
Five key sustainability trends
Areas of opportunity: Sustainability

Sustainability Today

Uneven distribution of resources and environmental impacts
Sustainability in 2020: regional facts
COVID-19: Unprecedented shock to global commodity prices
COVID-19 impacting global fossil fuels demand and CO2 emissions
Oil price collapse hit plastic recycling and renewable energies

Global Outlook

Food outlook: supply demonstrated resilience during COVID-19
Agriculture overview: Organic farming growing but still niche
Agriculture puts increasing pressure on water resources
Water outlook: climate change to impact further water resources
Materials resources outlook: Negative impact on productivity
Mining outlook: COVID-19 disrupts global supply of battery materials
Energy outlook: progress on energy efficiency threatened by pandemic
Unequal access to basic services undermines sustainable development
COVID-19 impacted all sustainability initiatives
Climate action remains strong post-COVID-19

Top Five Sustainability Trends

Five key sustainability trends

Top five sustainability trends

Sustainability trends impacting economies, businesses and consumers
Climate action: t ransport and food are two priority areas
Circular economy: closing the loop is key to improve resilience
Commodity price volatility: Uncertainty here to stay
Pollution: action needed to stop e missions rebound from COVID-19
Sustainability trends in action: circular economy and climate action
Sustainability trends in action: commodity price and pollution

Rankings of Key Indicators

Natural resources: country overview
Forest: country overview
Biodiversity: Country overview
Agriculture: country overview
Food: country overview
Materials resources: country overview
Metals: country overview
Minerals: country overview
Water: country overview
Energy: country overview
Pollution: country overview
Access to basic services: country overview
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