The 12 Sustainability Trends Influencing the Industry

Sustainability has taken center stage in the business world as businesses recognize the importance of integrating ESG factors into their corporate strategies. As we navigate through the challenges and opportunities presented by current environmental challenges, it has become ever more important to keep pace with the emerging sustainability trends shaping the business landscape. Let’s explore twelve of the top sustainability trends for business, from the circular economy and carbon footprint reduction to smart waste management.

1. Circular Economy 

Businesses are increasingly moving towards a circular economy model, a closed-loop system where waste is minimized and resources are continually reused and recycled, minimizing the strain on natural resources and the environment. Business efforts include reducing waste, designing more durable products, increasing recycling and repurposing materials, and creating new products from waste materials.

2. Carbon Footprint Reduction

With increased pressure to minimize environmental impact, companies are working hard to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by their operations, products, and supply chains. Beyond exploring innovative, costly low-carbon technologies and products, many organizations are participating in carbon offset programs, from reforestation to supporting clean energy projects. By purchasing carbon offset credits from places like CheckSammy’s Carbon Offset Marketplace, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, comply with regulatory requirements, and potentially improve their ESG score.

3. Zero Waste Initiatives 

Governments and businesses are increasingly adopting zero waste goals, which aim to minimize waste generation and divert materials from landfills and incinerators by emphasizing resource recovery, recycling, and reuse. Related to the concept of the circular economy, zero waste initiatives aim to create closed-loop systems that mirror nature by continually repurposing materials to the point where nothing is discarded. These initiatives help reduce the pollution,  resource extraction, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste disposal. One notable example of a company’s zero waste initiative is the efforts made by Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company. In 2016, Unilever announced that it had achieved zero waste to landfill across 600 Unilever sites through efforts that included redesigning packaging, implementing waste segregation and recycling systems, finding ways to use waste as a resource, and more.

4. Waste-to-Energy Technologies

It’s easier than ever to convert waste into useful energy sources with advances in the associated technology that converts waste into energy, from anaerobic digestion to gasification. By converting waste materials into usable forms of energy, including heat, electricity, or fuel, companies tap into sustainable alternatives to traditional energy sources. This innovative technology provides a reliable source of energy to help businesses reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and lower energy costs. 

The “Green Steam” project by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is one example of a successful WtE initiative, through building a large-scale biogas plant to convert wastewater and other organic waste from its insulin production facility into biogas that can then generate heat and electricity for the facility. 

5. Plastic Waste Reduction 

With the growing awareness of plastic pollution, there is an increasing focus on reducing single-use plastics and improving plastic recycling processes. These efforts include phasing out single-use plastics like straws, utensils and bags, redesigning product packaging, using recycled plastic, encouraging reuse and refill retail options, and more. In a move towards reducing plastic, for example, Coca-Cola committed to making 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2025.

6. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

EPR policies require manufacturers to take responsibility for the end-of-life management of their products, leading to better waste management and recycling practices. These policies promote a shift towards a circular economy by incentivizing businesses to design more sustainable products and packaging and to support the development of infrastructure for waste collection, recycling, and disposal. Electronics trade-in programs where manufacturers accept end-of-life products and recycle them – like Apple Trade In – are an example of how large corporations are working to follow the standards set forth by EPR policies.

7. Smart Waste Management

The use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors, data analytics, and automation is helping optimize waste collection, sorting, and recycling processes, making waste management and recycling more efficient and cost-effective. Using smart technology like CheckSammy’s smart recycling bins, businesses can monitor and manage waste generation more efficiently, which helps drive cost savings and improved operational performance. For example, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA uses sensors and compactors to monitor waste generation and optimize waste collection across its stores and warehouses.

8. Biodegradable and Compostable Materials

More companies are using biodegradable and compostable materials to replace items that are not environmentally friendly, like packaging, disposable cutlery, and single-use products. Many businesses are replacing plastic bags with biodegradable alternatives made out of starch or cellulose. Instead of styrofoam or plastic food containers, they’re using compostable options made from plant-based materials like bagasse or PLA (polylactic acid). Other companies are developing innovative biodegradable materials like bioplastics made out of algae or waste byproducts. The options for biodegradable and compostable products are greater today than ever, making the switch much easier even for large organizations.

9. Advanced Recycling Technologies

New recycling technologies, including chemical recycling, pyrolysis, and gasification, are being developed to process hard-to-recycle materials and create high-quality recycled materials. These advanced technologies can break down complex materials into their basic components, which can then be repurposed to create new products or for use as feedstock for various industries. Businesses that adopt this tech can improve their resource efficiency, reduce waste disposal costs, and ensure regulatory compliance.

10. Community Involvement

Involving the community demonstrates corporate social responsibility, fosters goodwill, and contributes to the overall well-being of the communities where companies operate. Business leaders have come to realize that companies’ long-term success is intertwined with the health and prosperity of the communities they serve, which means that engaging in community-focused initiatives can lead to tangible benefits including improved brand reputation, customer loyalty, and employee satisfaction. From reforestation projects to beach clean-ups and community gardens, these initiatives help promote environmental stewardship and foster a sense of community.

11. Education and Awareness Campaigns

Efforts to increase public awareness and participation in recycling and waste reduction are key to achieving sustainable waste management goals. By raising awareness and promoting sustainable behaviors, businesses can drive positive change, encourage responsible consumption, and foster a culture of sustainability. One example of this trend is Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign where the outdoor clothing retailer encouraged consumers to think critically about their purchasing decisions and the impact of consumerism on the environment. Patagonia urged customers to repair, reuse, and recycle their products, and only buy new items when necessary.

12. Policy and Regulatory Changes

Governments are implementing stricter waste management and recycling regulations, like landfill bans and recycling targets, to drive improvements in the industry. Some of the key policy and regulatory trends include carbon pricing and emissions trading, EPR regulations, renewable energy targets, and plastic reduction policies – to mention a few.

Adopt More Sustainability Trends with CheckSammy

Companies are increasingly recognizing the need to embrace sustainable practices to ensure long-term success, meet regulatory requirements, and cater to evolving consumer preferences. The move to sustainability doesn’t need to be overwhelming, especially when you have the right partner by your side. CheckSammy has worked with organizations large and small to help them implement new sustainability initiatives, and we can help you, too. Contact us today to learn more.

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