In 2024, it is inevitable for companies to prioritize sustainability in order to remain competitive, resilient, and responsible. It is a strategic imperative that affects every aspect of corporate performance, from reputation and risk management to innovation and growth. Looking at the new year, this blogpost will highlight three of the most important corporate sustainability topics that could shape the business agenda in 2024.
1. Climate Disclosure and Accountability
One of the most prominent trends in sustainability is the increasing demand for transparency and accountability from stakeholders, especially investors and regulators. According to a survey by Edelman, a public relations firm, 75% of respondents expect CEOs to speak out on key social and political issues, such as climate change¹. Moreover, new sustainability standards and regulations have come into effect in 2024, such as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), and the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s rules on climate disclosure.
These developments mean that businesses need to disclose not only their environmental impacts, but also their strategies and actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They also need to demonstrate that they have credible and science-based plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, and that they are aligning their capital allocation and business models with the transition to a low-carbon economy. Businesses that fail to do so will face reputational damage, legal challenges, and financial losses.
2. Nature-Based Solutions and Biodiversity
Another key topic in sustainability is the recognition of the interdependence between human well-being and the health of nature. The COVID-19 pandemic, which originated from a zoonotic disease, has exposed the risks and costs of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of the world’s GDP depends on nature and its services, such as pollination, water purification, and soil fertility. However, nature is declining at an unprecedented rate, with one million species threatened with extinction and 75% of the Earth’s land surface altered by human activities.
To address this challenge, businesses need to adopt nature-based solutions, which are actions that protect, restore, and manage natural ecosystems to provide benefits for both people and nature. Examples of nature-based solutions include reforestation, regenerative agriculture, green infrastructure, and circular economy. These solutions can help businesses reduce their environmental footprint, enhance their resilience, create new revenue streams, and contribute to the global goals of restoring 1 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030 and conserving 30% of the Earth’s surface by 2030.
3. Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency
The third topic to be highlighted is the relevance of circular economy and resource efficiency in sustainability. The circular economy is a system that aims to eliminate waste and keep materials and products in use for as long as possible, through strategies such as reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling. Resource efficiency is the optimal use of natural resources to minimize environmental impacts and maximize social and economic benefits.
The circular economy and resource efficiency are not only good for the planet, but also for business. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion of additional economic output by 2030, by reducing costs, increasing revenues, and creating new markets. Moreover, a circular economy could help businesses mitigate the risks of resource scarcity, price volatility, and regulatory pressures, as well as enhance their reputation and customer loyalty.
To embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency, businesses need to rethink their product design, business models, and value chains. They need to adopt principles such as modularity, durability, recyclability, and biodegradability in their product design, and offer services such as leasing, sharing, and take-back in their business models. They also need to collaborate with their suppliers, customers, and partners to create closed-loop systems that optimize the use of resources and minimize waste.
If you and your company want to make an impact and catch up on climate action and disclosure, then you could get in contact with one our experts at DFGE via mail () or phone (+49 819 29973320). Together with us you will take the next step with a carbon footprint calculation, the conceptualization of an impactful climate strategy or guidance on CSR reportings and ratings like CDP and EcoVadis.
Sources to Sustainability Trends 2024: