Sustainability Trends of 2024 and What They Mean for SMEs

Let’s dive deeper into key sustainability trends of 2024, how these influence organisations and what they mean for SMEs, plus take a look at barriers and support available for growing enterprises.

Private sectors are now feeling increasing accountability in delivering and sustaining purpose-driven change in the economy. As echoed by top leaders at COP28 and Davos earlier this year, the world is reaching extreme temperatures with 2023 warming up +1.5C in average surface temperature compared to the pre-industrial 19th century. Businesses are therefore looking into innovative ways to amplify their impact in 2024.

(Source: ECMWF)

Coming Around from Circular Economy to Circular Partnerships


Reducing, reusing, and recycling doesn’t only sound great, but it also tackles climate change through minimizing waste and emissions, and maximizing resources. Take it one step further and you find circular partnerships that are rooted in a community of positive change. Partners could include other enterprises, governments, charities, industry bodies, and more. It could be collaborative competitors focusing on the overarching goal to create best sustainable practices, or alternatively, a partnership that symbiotically fills the product or service gaps that the other partner cannot fulfill. Forging circular partnerships complete product or service life cycles and has started shaping ESG strategies by:

  • sharing knowledge and resources on specific trades, practices, and advancements
  • creating momentum to advocate for economic policies that benefit the planet and people
  • closing the manufacturing loop to avoid unintended byproducts and wasted material


Digitalization’s role in sustainability


Digital advancements in data monitoring and analytics have created real-time value on accurate carbon accounting and transparent reporting. Paired with the increasing influence of machine learning, digital initiatives can scale with generative AI by:

  • decreasing operational costs
  • increasing accuracy and efficiency
  • streamlining collaboration
  • accelerating new technological upgrades


CapGemini Research Institute recently reported that 60% of organizations realize that sustainability goals can be achieved and even sped up through the transformative use of digital technology. In addition to environmental impact, the positives of digitalization flow through multiple organizational strategic areas.

Significant benefits are in store for organizations harnessing digital tech. The eco-digital economy is expected to double in size over the next five years. Table shows the extent of benefits from implementation of digital technologies from the last 5 years compared to expected benefits over the next 5 years. These are: improved customer engagement and satisfaction (24% to 35%), increased efficiency in operations (24% to 36%), improved circularity/optimize waste management (25% to 36%), and decrease in GHG emissions (21% to 31%). Digital technologies positively impact society by creating jobs, reducing bias, empowering small businesses, and offering various other benefits

(Source: The eco-digital eraTM by CapGemini Research Institute)

Running More on Renewables & Climate Tech

Climate technology has expanded beyond renewables to battery and energy storage, carbon capture, and alternative energy sources, such as biofuels. According to the World Economic Forum, “Three-quarters of business leaders see them as a key lever to decarbonize their value chains and create new industries and business models.” As the infrastructure for greener energy strengthens, the decrease in green premiums follows. Companies and individuals have capitalized on the reductions in renewable energy and hardware costs, which has greatly benefited them in delivering sustainability through:

  • supplemented transportation fleets and/or employee commuting schemes with EVs
  • heightened investment in low-emission machinery and facilities
  • increased capacity in battery energy storage systems (BESS) to store and distribute energy


The next step in this evolution would be to witness more direct commercial benefits by encouraging demand and investment into solutions complementing renewables, such as carbon capture and biofuels.

 

Have any further questions? Get in touch with our experts at hello@energise.com and they’ll be happy to help. We offer a range of social sustainability solutions which can be tailored to your requirements.

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Written By    Natasha Carlin

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