Sustainability Predictions for 2023

The new year is here and we are delving deep into sustainability trend predictions for 2023. These are all important factors that we believe will make an impact in the world of sustainability this year.

ESG Reporting Requires Verification

Unfortunately, greenwashing is only expected to grow however consumers are becoming savvier and will be expecting these claims to be quantifiable. Only 50% of consumers trust businesses to take the right steps in relation to climate change according to an Edelmann survey. This means that for 2023, ESG reporting can no longer be about the image of the brand; it needs to be actionable steps. No longer will nice-sounding clickbait headlines be enough to convince consumers. The demand for verification and substantiated evidence of the organization’s impact is required.

It is predicted that in 2023 there will be a greater call for clarity on corporate climate commitments. Companies will have to respond by taking steps to clarify their approach and milestones towards their net-zero targets. Currently, many organizations have long-term targets of reaching net zero by 2030 to 2050. However, many are failing to implement the necessary changes in the short term to reach their long-term goals.

Transportation Innovations

The electrification of cars has already seen huge innovations and adoptions across the general consumer markets. The next step is to electrify and/or move to a hybrid model for alternative transportation. This includes trucks, planes and boats. With improvements in batteries, efficient electric motors and technologies for hybrids to be extended to be more useful than simply passenger vehicles, this will see substantial growth in 2023.

Crackdown On Greenwashing

The most recent COP27 meeting in 2022 called for an end to greenwashing and unsubstantiated net-zero targets. Many brands have stated their net-zero goals. However, without a substantial plan of specific steps, this lofty goal is considered unattainable. Consumers are becoming increasingly wise to the tell tale signs of greenwashing. Without actionable plans organizations need to stop making statements about the environmental impacts and take real action. In 2023 it is predicted that many brands will be called out for making misleading claims and for greenwashing.

Net Zero Buildings

A popular trend in 2023 will be net zero buildings which produce as much energy as they consume over a year. This is possible through a variety of methods including solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal systems. The construction of these buildings typically takes into account the entire life cycle of the building. This consists of sourcing materials, consumption, energy use and waste management. The key benefits include reduced environmental impact, enhanced health and well-being for occupants, social and community benefits as well as increased financial performance

Digital Innovation

Continued investment in digital innovations including AI and automation is predicted to rise in 2023. These innovations are predicted to assist an organization’s sustainability agenda. According to the AI for climate action report, AI-enabled pilot projects have already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 13% in the last two years, as well as increased power efficiency by 11%. The release of AI software ChatGPT in late 2022 has already showcased the power of AI and the usefulness that these innovations have to support sustainability initiatives. However, concerns have been raised about the huge amounts of energy that these data centers require to operate. Heading in 2023 there will be increased pressure for AI to be energy efficient, and cost-saving as well as being a disruptive technology.

Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building materials will increase in popularity throughout 2023 and beyond. These materials include those that are sourced from renewable or recycled sources. These traditionally include bamboo, wool and cork. Choosing these building materials will not only reduce the overall impact of the building during the construction phase, but it will also create a sustainable building. These materials are often more durable and require less maintenance which is a cost-saving mechanism.

Carbon Credits and Offsetting Will Receive a Makeover

Unfortunately, carbon offsetting and carbon credits have been criticized as a way for corporations to sidestep true carbon reduction activities while claiming carbon reduction benefits. There have been many fraudulent and dubious practices surrounding this industry. The scrutiny that surrounds carbon offsetting has been warranted. The prediction for 2023 is that organizations that specialize in either carbon credits or offsetting will provide transparent ways to correctly partake in these practices. However, a rigorous process of verification will be required for businesses to trust these practices.  

Sustainability Product Knowledge

Sustainable product innovation trends are increasing throughout every industry. Unfortunately, the green alternative is not always as good as it seems. A trend that is seen in product packaging is the paperization of packaging. This is when paper replaces plastic due to its recyclability and renewability factors. However, these new paper products are often plastic hybrids because the paper is plastic lined to give it the same characteristics as the original plastic packaging. This is not solving the environmental problem and this means that the new ‘paper’ packaging has the same recyclability issue as the original plastic packaging. In 2023 it is predicted that some sustainable product innovations will be revealed to not be as eco-friendly as originally thought. This is evident that greenwashing will have infiltrated every industry.

Passive Design Implementation

A sustainable building trend that is predicted to be popular in 2023 is passive design principles. This is a design term that accounts for the local climate in the design phase of the building. The benefits include a reduction in the need for additional heating and/or cooling which saves both money and energy. These techniques can include the  orientation of the building to take advantage of a solar gain or the utilization of green roofs for example. The best way to implement passive design is to utilize these design principles during the construction phase. However, through renovations and building improvements, passive design principles can be implemented to create a sustainable building.

Climate-Positive Supply Chains

Scope 3 emissions are those which do not come directly from an organization’s operations but from its supply chain. Typically an organization’s emissions predominantly consist of Scope 3 emissions. Organizations are realizing that it is impossible to achieve net zero without looking outside their business. In 2023 organizations will have to look past their own organization and transform their supply chain to become carbon negative. This will force the organization to go beyond the traditional thinking of what net zero is. This will also entail organizations figuring out how to pay their carbon debt. This consists of emissions that the organization has emitted since its creation.