Sustainability in 2022: ​​A little less conversation, a little more action, please

The visible effects of climate change and the following media coverage made the topic of climate change hard to avoid in 2021 – for individuals and businesses. In fact, sustainability became more of a mainstream topic than ever before. It’s inevitable that in 2022 more businesses will be stepping up to play their part in sustainability. So, what’s on the agenda?

Sustainability Strategies: From Ambition To Action 

Until now, most organisations have been stating ambition and setting goals. Many companies (including Spotify) launched commitments to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These long-term goals are without a doubt important and necessary, but if we are to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, now is the time for action. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risk Report, climate action failure continues to be the risk considered most severe for the next 10 years, and is also identified within the top three risks in the short (0-2 years), medium (2-5 years) and long term (5-10 years) contexts. The companies (and countries) that have set net-zero targets will need to create credible pathways of how to reach it and start taking those actions. In 2022, we will hopefully see these commitments being brought to life through activities and real emission reductions, with companies using their innovation and influence to do so in new, improved ways. 

To get going, companies need to step up their integration efforts. Setting a long-term goal can be done on a high level but to make things happen, sustainability commitments need to be broken down and integrated throughout the business. Things like internal carbon pricing and transparent emission reporting will help.

Engaging Employees In Sustainability Actions 

It will be no surprise when we see an even higher level of scrutiny, from the general public, the experts and employees. Companies are being held accountable for their sustainability and climate promises, there is no longer any pardon or way to wriggle out of commitments. People – customers, employees, governments, investors, etc. – expect organisations to deliver on their goals. Walking the talk is the only way businesses can prove their stated ambitions to be genuine, and to make the promised contributions to solving this world-wide problem. 

Historically, accountability has been driven by external stakeholders, primarily investors and regulators, but in recent years, this has been driven more and more by employees. Whether one subscribes to the idea of the “great resignation” or not, we know that the talent market in 2022 is more competitive than ever. And creating a sense of belonging and connection between an organisation’s actions and personal values is the biggest driver of retention. Visibly demonstrating purpose through sustainability actions is an extremely powerful way to showcase your culture and cement your employees’ faith that they’ve joined a company that respects its responsibilities and will follow through on its promises. Therefore, an organisation’s sustainability strategy and subsequent actions are fast-becoming a major deciding factor when choosing to join a company, or even to stay with an employer.

Integrating Sustainability Actions With A Data Informed Approach

To start delivering on the stated targets, all parts of the business must be aligned, which calls for high-quality data. Updating a spreadsheet once a year will not be specific enough to enable your emission reduction efforts. 

Therefore, in 2022, sustainability teams will feel the need for more sophisticated software to visualise their carbon emissions, identifying which part of the business or processes are producing the most emissions, in order to focus efforts on reducing them. 

Having a visualisation and a way to present data in an understandable and digestible way, will enable sharing across your organisation, which is key to driving engagement. In organisations such as Spotify, where band members are encouraged to proactively and collaboratively find innovations that will help the business and the world around them, sharing this data can be the catalyst for unleashing the necessary creativity of employees.

The changing legislative landscape is another reason for the increased importance of data. Mandatory reporting and sustainability disclosure requirements are being implemented in many countries globally. Having high-quality data easily available will enable compliance and make sure that you do not focus too heavily on reporting, sucking up time and efforts that could instead be spent creating positive impact and driving change. 

Sustainability Storytelling 

Making facts and science accessible to a wider audience is more important than ever. That said, knowing the facts does not necessarily mean that people will change their behaviour, therefore we should be more creative in how to trigger these much-needed actions. A platform like Spotify can play a major role here, and we’re betting that appealing to people’s feelings through storytelling and fiction will be more effective. 

We’ve already seen examples of this across other media platforms – the Netflix movie Don’t look up being the most prominent one from last year. In 2022, the climate crisis will have a brighter spotlight in mainstream culture, and personal stories from those affected by climate change will garner more attention. Watch this space as things like ‘Cli-Fi’ (fiction literature covering climate change) develop further.

Climate Justice 

Poor and marginalised communities are often hit hardest by the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather, droughts, and sea-level rise. This is despite the fact that they bear little of the responsibility for causing climate change in the first place. The perspective of climate justice is not new and was heavily discussed during COP 26 last year. In 2022 we can expect the climate crisis conversation to expand focus from being primarily about cutting emissions to including human rights and social inequality. It’s up to us, organisations with power and reach, to provide a platform and amplify the voices that are often unheard and ignored. 

2022 – Get Involved!

As we come to the end of the first month of 2022, we all feel the sense of urgency building. We know that taking sustainable actions is well overdue. Conversation around the different areas of sustainability is good, and storytelling and finding ways to engage all the different audiences is essential, but we must not forget that we all need to play a part in creating action. 

Businesses need to make sure they enable action towards their own goals, right across the organisation, and they must also step up to activate their customer base. 

2022 will be a pivotal year in sustainability, with a lot of change centred around key dates like the UN Biodiversity Conference (25th April-8th May), the Stockholm+50 (2nd-3rd June), COP 27 (8-20th November) and the IPCCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (September). 

Get these dates in the diary, be prepared to take action, and make a difference in your organisation and in the world – it’s the way forward for your businesses and for the world at large.

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