From tackling complex political and military issues regarding non-renewable energy to responding to serious climate disasters and weathers, 2023 has been a year of unmissable sustainable trends for both the public and those in power.
But how will these issues impact some of the biggest decisions yet to be made in the remaining days, weeks and months left of 2023? How have they changed the face of sustainability and climate activism this year so far?
Water Scarcity and Drought Concerns
Over the past 23 years, the number and duration of droughts around the world has risen by over a third. Recent studies have shown that the likelihood of further droughts happening in the Northern Hemisphere is now 20 times higher than it was in 2000. Water scarcity and the growing fear of drought, global thirst and increasing temperatures is a problem and one that many businesses, industries, leaders and communities are concerned about.
Without sufficient water, several key industries are set to suffer - particularly the agriculture, food and drink, hospitality and manufacturing sectors. Some agribusinesses, whose crops and harvests have already been affected by the Russia/Ukraine war, are seeing these harmful effects of reduced water in their produce.
Therefore, it’s likely that potential investors, stakeholders and industry leaders will begin to place a bigger focus on increasing water security, selecting sustainable water sources and tackling the social and economic barriers preventing essential climate action in their industries.
Energy Security and Geopolitical Turmoil
With the war in Ukraine continuing to have a damaging impact on Europe’s energy supply, security is a key priority for many countries and leaders this year. Identifying, locating and securing renewable and sustainable energy sources is vital to keeping their countries functioning - ideally without the need for foreign intervention.
Broadly, this concern will shape many decisions regarding country-wide energy suppliers, and will hopefully fund further research into homegrown, affordable and sustainable energy alternatives. However, on a micro level, business owners and household consumers are also likely to make more informed choices when it comes to their own energy supplies. The impact of the Russian invasion has affected the public on a personal level, with many following the news of the war on a daily basis. The growing awareness of the impact on our energy supplies is common conversation and will play a role in the suppliers selected for personal use, the resources invested in by both the public and business sectors and the political preferences of the more ecologically inclined voters.
Greater Transparency and Disclosure Pressures
In light of the many greenwashing accusations facing big name brands and businesses over the past few years, one of the biggest trends to impact decision-making in 2023 is that of sustainable transparency and disclosure. From a business perspective, this is likely to mean that legislative and contractual commitments to sustainability will be enforced at a higher level and that the evidence of these changes will be publically available to examine.
As further information emerges about the ongoing climate crisis, consumers, investors and stakeholders are educating themselves on the differences between real sustainable practices and demonstrative actions, and are expecting increased authenticity from their suppliers. This will likely create a chain reaction of sorts as businesses demand transparency from their suppliers, suppliers demand transparency from their sources and the industries demand this same transparency from their governing boards. Decisions surrounding purchasing, produce, manufacturing, marketing and employment will be reframed to hit new sustainability targets in ways that can be openly shared with the public - a marked change from the faux actions of the past.
Improved Animal and Human Welfare
Much like the call for transparency in business practices, a demand for increased ethics surrounding animal and human welfare will also have an impact on sustainable decision-making. The University of Oxford released a report claiming that an individual’s carbon footprint can be reduced by 73% simply by cutting meat out of their diets - prompting a big shift in the dietary requirements of the general public. More people than ever are choosing vegan alternatives, and campaigning for better welfare and working conditions for both the animals and humans involved in the production of their food.
Brands and businesses with foreign imports such as coffee, fruit, alcohol, meat and dairy will be forced to reexamine their supply chains and adapt to the increased demand for ethical animal-free alternatives. There’s also likely to be refreshed legislation regarding the equality, ethics and welfare of all workers, from those harvesting produce in the fields to those packaging up the final product - highlighting new processes to reduce carbon emissions and worker dissatisfaction simultaneously.
The rising costs from physical climate risks
Wildfires, tsunamis, storms and heatwaves - the world in 2023 is beginning to respond to the climate emergency just as predicted, through freak weather patterns, catastrophes and disasters. Whilst important work is being carried out to help slow the speed of climate change, for now, the onus is being placed on surviving these disasters and helping to mitigate their impact on those affected.
With each new disaster comes an immense physical, financial, emotional and social cost - families displaced, wildlife destroyed, properties ruined and areas of land becoming inhabitable for overcrowded civilians. Emergency funds are being stretched to the limit trying to weather each new storm but the rising risk of another disaster is still a concern for many global leaders and decision-makers.
How exactly do they prepare for the next unpredictable weather pattern? Are their funds better spent reinforcing houses or redirecting sea water? How much of their budget can they afford to invest in emergency preparedness, wildlife protection and national protection, whilst still ensuring the country runs efficiently? These are the questions facing local governments, leaders and investors currently, with an unknown deadline rapidly approaching before the next significant storm.
Sustainability and the rapidly emerging climate crisis will always have an impact on the way businesses, global leaders and governments make decisions about the future of their people. In 2023, as we experience political conflict, physical storms, an urgent call for energy security and transparency, and a growing need for sustainable alternatives, these decisions matter more than ever to secure a cleaner, greener future in 2024.