2015 Sustainability Trends
Learn how businesses are prioritizing the environment
Want to know which sustainability trends are influencing corporate
policy? It’s best to keep tabs on company
strategies as green goals often coincide
with facilities management. The research
firm Verdantix interviewed hundreds of
sustainability and environmental health
and safety (EH&S) leaders to explore the
key green trends that will impact business
management in 2015 and beyond.
The report surveyed companies such as
3M, Apple, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Gap, Holcim,
Johnson & Johnson, and P&G. The following themes are expected to influence the
agendas of sustainability decision-makers.
1) Sustainability strategies will adopt risk-based thinking. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is revamping
all of its standards to integrate ISO 31000’s
risk-based concepts. This will open the door
to a consistent and systematic use in management systems and support the broader
trend of increased involvement of sustainability leaders in sustainability risk management: 62% of leaders reported having full
or shared sustainability risk management
authority, up from 20% in 2012.
2) Supplier sustainability assessments will
move beyond checklists. Businesses face
continued pressure to account for and rectify sustainability failures within their supply chains or product procurement policies.
The realization that it is no longer enough
to simply state that a firm has a supplier
sustainability questionnaire is pushing firms
to seek means to audit and engage suppliers to ensure sustainability performance.
3) Water scarcity concerns will increase
corporate investigation of natural capital
risks. As water scarcity continues to be a
global concern, corporate action is needed
to address risks associated between natural
capitals such as forests and water. Firms
need to pay attention to sustainable agriculture goals, such as reducing cropland
soil erosion, safeguarding regional water
quality, and improving land use efficiency.
4) Green infrastructure strategies will gain
popularity. Corporations are exploring
green infrastructure strategies, including
transforming impervious land into pervious
green spaces, to help manage stormwater
run-off and reduce costs associated with
water infrastructure maintenance. For
example, Washington, D.C. is implementing
a Stormwater Retention Credit trading program that allows property owners to generate revenue from voluntarily implementing
green infrastructure projects.
5) Non-financial reporting will continue
its slow incremental growth. Non-financial
reporting for sustainability initiatives has
become widespread among large businesses. For instance, interviews with 260 global
sustainability leaders in 2014 found that
90% of leaders will publish an annual sustainability report in 2015. Of those surveyed,
45% believe that improving their performance on sustainability reporting over the
next 12 months is “very important.”
6) EH&S and sustainability job functions
will migrate closer together. A growing
number of industries are starting to merge
the responsibilities of Environmental Health
& Safety (EH&S) and sustainability managers. Of the 250 EH&S leaders interviewed in
2014, 67% had responsibility for measuring
corporate-wide results for sustainability data
collection and reporting, while 75% were responsible for setting corporate sustainability
data collection and reporting policy.
7) Materiality assessments will be the
focus of sustainability strategy reviews.
Chief sustainability officers following the
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 had
been using the “report on everything”
approach, but under the new GRI G4,
managers will need to think carefully about
their firm’s materially relevant sustainability
concerns. This means tracking sustainability initiatives that reflect an organization’s
significant economic, environmental, and
social impacts or substantively influence the
assessments and decisions of stakeholders.