Even with the steep dip in greenhouse gas emissions during the COVID-19 lockdowns, last year saw record-breaking temperatures around the globe and another surge in climate-related disasters. Despite growing efforts from individuals, business and governments to allay the trends, true sustainability seems to remain a distant goal. However, this shortfall is not a cause solely for despair, but also represents a prime business opportunity for companies across industries and geographies. Some businesses can clearly see the financial incentives of genuinely participating in the generational transition to an entirely new way of powering the world. Harnessing change has always been a root source of wealth creation; with an existential need for innovation, a new phase of wealth creation stands before us: “the green rush.”
To better understand these dynamics and the scale of the opportunities available, our Center for the Future of Work partnered with MindForce Research to survey 1,000 C-suite and VP-level business leaders across North America and Europe in the midst of the pandemic. See interactive graphic below for a selection of detailed study responses. More broadly, the study’s main findings found the following:
- Europe outpaces the US in green measures. Businesses in Europe are more apt to increase sustainability spending than those in the US.
- Sustainability investments are linked to business gains. A majority of respondents globally expect such investments to increase sales and improve brand reputation, not merely satisfy regulations.
- Technology investment is key to combating climate change. A strong majority of study respondents list environmental sensors/Internet of Things (IoT) as important or very important to meeting their sustainability goals, with smart grids and artificial intelligence (AI) tied for second place.
- Emerging tech can catalyze current sustainability endeavors. Well-established sustainability approaches such as eco-friendly lighting and renewable energy are popular, but newer tech like AI and analytics could supercharge proven techniques — for example, by making energy audits easier and more valuable to conduct.
- ROI and senior-leader commitment are top concerns and will require a renewed look at sustainability strategies. As usual, these are cited as big sticking points for realizing sustainability goals.
- Underutilized sustainability initiatives that could result in quick wins are readily available. Low-budget but high-impact practices, such as reducing business travel expenses (post-pandemic) and buying refurbished electronics, could gain support needed for more sustainability investment. Indeed, the pandemic has been an inflection point for increased work from home (WFH).
Businesses should regard green initiatives not as “red” — a cost on the balance sheet — but as “green,” a money-making opportunity. There is already a surge of climate tech startups, and by 2030, the investment in green-business startups and corporate innovation is projected to grow to $3.4 trillion.