By Nikos Avlonas & Rosalinda Sanquiche
Centre for Sustainability and Excellence

 

Years of research, international observation, working with corporate intrapreneurs and social entrepreneurs and leading programs around the world – we feel confident looking toward the future!

2019 will be a continuation of trends, growing in momentum.  This year will also see the rise of sustainability practices in unexpected places using innovative applications of cutting-edge technologies as reported in CSE’s 2018 researches Trends and Challenges for European Companies on Sustainability Goals Integration and Sustainability (CR) Impact 2018 and Sustainability (ESG) Reporting Trends: North America 2018.

COMMON STRATEGIC GOALS set by companies are evident regardless of sector and country. These common strategic goals relate to issues such as climate change and energy efficiency, as well as the continuous effort for more sustainable supply chains. These goals are at the top of the international sustainability agenda, and what sustainability professionals are working on in order to mitigate the expected severe impacts of climate change and to provide products and services which are responsible and respond to the demands and preferences of stakeholders.

SOCIAL IMPACT GOALS of European companies related to expanding the reach of their sustainability strategies to their business partners, mitigating the impacts to local communities caused by their operations and activities, and providing responsible products and services. However, significant gaps have been identified with respect to measuring the impact of those initiatives and application of practices, for example through a Socioeconomic Impact Assessment or use of tools such as the Social Return on Investment (SROI).

 ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE in its many manifestations will assist sustainability efforts by increasing efficiencies – a trend we’ve seen for the past couple of years.  Now, entrepreneurs are bringing their technology to market.  What is brand new (pun intended) is the application of AI to social marketing.  AI algorithms can create emotion- and character-based interface to gain consumer buy-in and brand loyalty.  Creating a persuasive digital persona will draw from positive human characteristics such as ethics, empathy, transparency and social awareness.  This AI-driven marketing increasingly will be deployed in social media.

SUSTAINABILITY PROFESSIONALS are leaving home.  Sustainability practitioners will no longer be relegated to the Sustainability Department, under a Director of Sustainability, outsiders who tap the rest of the company once a year for metrics in pursuit of the increasingly in demand Sustainability Report.  Sustainability practitioners will be found in and demanded by departments throughout an organization to strengthen organizational culture around sustainability.  The legal team, Financial department, ERM (risk management), Procurement, communications, R&D, investor relations – cross-organizational departments will want a sustainability expert among their ranks, working side-by-side, answering questions, leading programs and informing policy throughout the corporate structure.

 AGRICULTURE is increasingly under scrutiny for health and safety.  Blockchain will track products farm-to-table.  Local sourcing is growing, as is the demand for fresh products which are organic, biodynamic and/or non-GMO.  To accommodate this growing market, there is concern that these farming practices, being taken over by Agribusiness, may actually be contributing more to climate change.  If  more acres of land must be cleared, even slash and burned, to get non-GMO yields equivalent to 1 acre of “regular” farming, research shows the carbon load is greater for the more natural farming practices.  One option is to use existing farmlands, too often being subsumed into suburbia.  Another option is the use of halophytes which grow on desert or denuded lands, thrive on salt water and have long root systems which sequester carbon.  Increasing yields without the carbon burden of clearing lands will affect the climate change race by carbon sequester and lower dependency on fossil fuels.

CSE is a leading boutique firm operating globally that specializes in maximizing business impact in Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility. CSE helps professionals advance their careers through our certified on-site, online (www.Sustainability-Academy.org) and group training services globally and supports companies and organizations grow and excel through Sustainability consulting and coaching.

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