2024 may very well become a breakthrough year for sustainability. Although, as always, the world’s sustainability transformation will labor forward amidst many other pressing concerns, this year inherited considerable momentum from 2023, including the historic outcomes of COP28 and the decisive global embrace of simultaneous action on climate, nature, and equity.
Still, many other issues will compete for attention. Perhaps more than anything else, geopolitics - from the Israel-Hamas conflict, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and escalating US-China tensions to a record global election year – will again force political and business leaders to manage energy security and supply chain risk as well as dealing with the ebbs and flows of electoral campaigns.
The ESG backlash is also likely to continue. However, the wave of anti-ESG legislation in the US and the global popularity surge of populist, and often climateskeptic, parties in 2023 showed that the backlash, despite generating many headlines, has limited real business impact: a few notable exceptions aside, companies have stayed the course.
Regardless of these and other pressures, we expect the sustainability transformation to be resilient and likely accelerate compared to last year. Three pivotal developments in 2023 set the stage for this.
Firstly, the global shift toward mandatory sustainability disclosures was kicked off by the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and reverberated in new regulations from California to Singapore. Secondly, the breakthrough of naturerelated reporting was bolstered by the launch of the final framework of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures. And 2023 wrapped up with a climate agreement at COP28 explicitly mentioning a shift away from fossil fuels.
Another crucial factor driving momentum is the steadfast commitment of investors and companies to sustainability. Both groups increasingly engage with sustainability, from reporting, stakeholder engagement, and workplace diversity to sustainable operations and supply chains, seeing this engagement as business critical. In this regard, it is telling that the ESG backlash has made companies and investors less outspoken about sustainability but no less determined.
This 2024 Trends Report covers relevant sustainability trends and corporate responses across ten categories. Based on extensive research and interviews with subject matter experts, we highlight and interconnect the most critical developments for each category and recommend actions to help companies navigate 2024 and beyond. The ten trends and our analysis are summarized in the report.