Predictions 2020: Environmental Sustainability

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Trends, technologies, key topics, and issues around sustainability that will shape up 2020

Dr James Robey
       Dr James Robey

Unprecedented interest and awareness of climate change issues has characterised 2019. Increased public awareness is at an all-time high.  We are faced with regular news of extreme weather conditions, from rainfall and flooding to heatwaves and wildfires, with implications for humans, animals and the environment.  Floods in Venice, the emergency in New South Wales due to fires, heavy rainfalls in France, are some examples of the events that shook us up in 2019.

Our Global Head of Environmental Sustainability, Dr James Robey, predicts that 2020 will be a significant year for organisations who will start an accelerated journey on the road to the transformation needed to meet increasingly challenging times  Here is what he thinks will be big in 2020:

COP 26

The UK has won the bid to host COP26, the formal meeting of the representative nations on the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 2020 conference is seen as a significant crossroads in the battle against global climate change and the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. It will be the year in which governments will review their promises to cut carbon emissions in line with the latest science.

We predict the COP 26 will be decisive in the fight against climate change as countries endeavour to reassess their carbon goals in order to limit global temperature rise to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Increased focus from business on sustainability

We predict that sustainability will continue to rise up the agenda for industry in 2020 as organisations explore further ways to reduce their impact on the environment. While 2019 saw the industry tackling issues like single-use plastics, in 2020, there will be a greater focus on wider climate change issues and sustainable practices such as smarter travel and sustainable energy.   We also expect to see a paradigm shift from a focus on ‘doing less bad’ to doing ‘more good’ as businesses seeks to balance the desire for growth with sustainability.

This topic is explored further in our 2019  World Energy  Marketing Observatory report.

More collaborations between corporates

There is also a growing awareness that sustainability is not something that can be tackled by individual organisations alone.  Businesses will need to come together to forge partnerships to work for a more sustainable future. The business community recognises that the only way that the required level of change needed can be achieved, will be through collaboration.

Consequently, we predict many sectoral and inter-sector alliances will form in 2020, to further specific goals and initiatives for sustainability. One such example is that of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launching an industry guide which offers best practice advice on sustainability in information and communication technology (ICT). The guide and related work underpins some core principles, including the United Nation’s Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030), and the UK government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the agenda of its partnering organisations in the UK.

We recently launched a new report, at the World Climate Summit, the Sustainable Business Revolution 2030, which explores this in more detail.

Tech practitioners wear a sustainability hat

While technology has introduced environmental sustainability challenges, it also brings with it opportunities to solve environmental issues. Innovation in data generation and analytics, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced robotics, as well as cloud computing, have opened the door to many positive impacts for sustainability. According to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, GeSI, technology has the potential to contribute to all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – including over 50% of the 169 sub-targets. We predict technologies like AI, Machine Learning and data analytics are practices that will see increased use by organisations to help them understand their carbon footprint and analyse potential reduction strategies.

Advanced analytics, enabled by the increase in quality and quantity of data from connected devices in operation, provide organisations with much higher insights into their efficiency. This can help identify opportunities to reduce environmental impacts across the enterprise, for example, from energy consumption patterns, which can be adapted accordingly. In the same way, intelligence from customer experience can be used to improve the manufacturing process, producing only what we need.

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Dr James RobeyDr James Robey

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