🌱 7 Sustainable Business Trends for 2022

Happy Tuesday… 2022 is the year of action. So here is something a little different (and a little longer) from us this week - 7 sustainable business trends for 2022. This week, more than ever, we would love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a response to this email with your predictions for the year ahead and we’ll feature them in our next edition. If you enjoy these trends forward them on to a friend and If you’re just joining us, don’t forget to subscribe.

In today's edition: 

🔮 Sustainability in the Metaverse

🥩 A Gen-Z food revolution

🍇 The rise of nature-based solutions

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👜 1) The resale boom moves to luxury fashion 

2021 was a landmark year for the adoption of circular business models in middle-market fashion brands - take Patagonia selling upcycled products alongside new ranges or COS launching a resale marketplace to connect consumers. In 2022 we see resell and rental models moving from the fashion fringes to the luxury market. Those who don’t will be left behind –  search interest for “sustainable fashion” and “sustainable clothing” peaked during the pandemic. If that wasn’t incentive enough, a range of circular initiatives drafted by policymakers are in the pipeline (e.g. Waste Prevention Programme) which will make the economics of onshore recycling more attractive.

What to watch out for:

  • Counter the Counterfeit - Luxury brands adopting resale models will have to contend with counterfeit items working their way into supply chains. We expect to see the adoption of blockhain tech to certify returned products are authentic before reselling (e.g. Fibretrace).

  • Outsourcing - Luxury brands trialling resale models in part of their business by outsourcing to a third party to manage the complex reverse logistics - Burberry’s recent announcement with My Wardrobe HQ. 

🌫️ 2) Scope 3 emissions meltdown

In 2021 it felt like everyone and their mother was making net-zero pledges - over 90% of global GDP is now covered. 2022 will be crunch time for large companies who in many nations (UK, Japan, Singapore) will be facing mandatory disclosures of their current emissions. Even where mandatory disclosures have not been passed scrutiny from activist shareholders will ensure emissions top the boardroom agenda. How to quantify Scope 3 emissions (all indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain such as purchased goods, business travel and investments) will be of particular concern.

What to watch for:

  • From products to services: Redefining how we think about product ownership by sharing products eliminates emissions associated with production. Belongings can remain idle for long periods of time (e.g. the average European car is only in use 2% of its lifetime) so businesses will seek to launch services that share high-valued assets (e.g. Volkswagen’s Weshare offer)

  • Supply chain support: Many suppliers won’t have the in-house climate expertise and capital to drive climate transformation. Multinationals will increasingly make support available e.g. Walmart’s new finance program enables suppliers to get loans with repayments linked to sustainability performance.

🥫 3) A Gen-Z food takeover

Gen-Z (people born between 1996 - 2012) are coming into adulthood tis year and they have $143bn in buying power. Food is Gen Z’ers top spending priority, and they pay close attention to the sustainability, nutritional value and ethics of companies who make their food. A study shows that 74% of Gen-Z believe growing food locally helps with sustainability. So, expect the scaling-up of solutions that lower the distance food’s transported from farm to fork (aka Food Miles).
What to watch out for:

  • AppHarvest: with their giant, controlled-environment greenhouses have located themselves 1 days drive from 70% of the US population - much lower than the average 5-day road trip food usually takes to get to an American plate.

  • 3D printed alternative ‘meat’: To better mimic texture and taste of the real thing to drive mass adoption. Redefine Meat is using 3D printed meat in the UK (and we recently wrote about it).

  • Rooftop city farming: will provide fresh food close to the end consumer, while mitigating the heat issues experienced in urban areas through the plants’ natural thermoregulation and filtering pollution from the air. Sky Vegetables operate rooftop farms by using recycled rainwater in a recirculating system. 

Hungry for more? Look out for a special report into Food, Farming and AgriTech trends that will be released next week.

🧱 4) Sustainable Construction Meets Automation

The construction industry faces soaring energy and material costs; global demand for energy-efficient, affordable housing (think retrofitting); and issues with low productivity levels within the industry. Automation provides construction with a way to lower costs, improve productivity, reduce waste, and improve sustainability - we expect 2022 to bring growth in innovations that bring together sustainable construction and automation.
What to watch out for:

  • On-Site Automation: Physical tasks become automated. This won’t mean firing a bricklayer, rather machines will work side-by-side with workers, like Boston Dynamics’ RoboDog which is being used to collect on-site data.

  • Modular Production: Modular components of buildings will be 3D printed in factories and delivered on-site to be connected (i.e. houses built lego-style). Startup, Blockable, does this to provide underserved families with affordable, energy-efficient and climate-resilient housing.

    Digitised Design & Planning: through ‘building information modelling’ (uses data to create a virtual mock-up of an entire project to predict potential outcomes) Avvir uses mobile scanners and building plans to detect construction mistakes in real-time - to minimise waste and ensure there offcut material is reused.

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💭5) A Sustainable Metaverse?

The metaverse is a virtual world where users can share experiences and coexist to meet, work, and play using virtual reality. It looks likely to reach into every corner of our lives. Apple, Disney, Nvidia, Microsoft, and Meta (formerly Facebook) have all stated their intentions to get involved. In 2021 we saw outcry at the sustainability credentials of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, and Non-fungible tokens (NFT’s). In 2022 we expect similar scrutiny over the Metaverse and the emergence of sustainable use cases.

What to watch out for:

  • Maintaining the metaverse: The metaverse will rely on huge volumes of data and AI models to support the experience. and with it an uptick in associated emissions (training a single AI model can emit as much 5x the lifetime emissions of the average American car).
  • Sustainable fashion: a key feature in the metaverse will be how we present ourselves and big fashion brands are already creating metaverse attire. This could offer a novel way to test new fashion trends digitally, reducing the waste associated with failed fads in the real world.
  • Travel emissions: Hosting concerts, meetings and conferences in virtual spaces in the metaverse will curb environmental costs incurred through travel.
🏫 6) The Education Tech Explosion

The global pandemic continues to present challenges for the education sector, with schools, teachers and pupils in a state flux due to lockdowns. This has resulted in transformative approaches to traditional methods of teaching and learning. By 2025, the e-learning market is estimated to rise to a value of $325 billion, as EdTech continues to make learning more adaptable, accessible and interactive - look out for these innovations in education over 2022. 

What to watch out for:

  • Personalised learning: The transition to home learning saw more devices in the hands of children. This means teachers have more data on student progress and what they’re finding difficult. CENTURY Tech, uses AI and data to present the right level of learning material at the right time to maximise knowledge retention.

  • Closing the gap: In developing countries, where poor quality roads and public transport impact school attendance. EdTech is overcoming these hurdles.  Like Eneza, who offers quizzes to help with exam prep in Kenya.
    Gamification: Greater use of games in teaching and learning. Careers Wales has launched a Minecraft world for learners to explore and develop their career skills and knowledge.

🌎 7) Nature-based climate solutions

In 2020 alone scientists declared more than 100 species extinct. Nature Day at COP26 demonstrated that climate and nature are twin crises - inaction in one space will harm the other. Likewise, they can be twin solutions. Nature-based solutions harness nature’s power and prevent biodiversity loss which is critical to fighting climate change. So these tools and techniques are likely to make headlines in 2022.

What to watch out for:

  • Improving scientific research: through sequencing technology, meaning scientists can more easily extract DNA floating in thin air (aka Airbourne DNA Detection), to observe, monitor, and protect vulnerable or endangered species.

  • Restoring Coastal Ecosystems: Like reefs and mangroves which protect communities from storms and erosion, while also sequestering carbon. Coral Vita, lets conscious consumers sponsor the growth of farmed coral and rehabilitate threatened reefs.

  • Boosting Regenerative Agriculture: developing farming systems that enhance biodiversity, produce nutritious food and sequester carbon. The World Economic Forum’s “100 Million Farmers” programme aims to leverage the world’s farmers to create food production systems that are net-zero and nature-positive.


Highlights from our recent editions

🍄 Ikea’s mushroom-based packaging 

🏭 Rolls-Royce’s mini-nuclear power plants

⛽️ Bets are placed on Hydrogen fuel

Written by @Ollie and @Colin 

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