Ten global trends and issues relevant for sustainable business

Having spent an hour with Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman yesterday, (what a terrible name dropper I am, but it was fascinating) tonight I’m going to talk to 30 or so executives from a major UK retailer about sustainability trends and what they could mean for them.

I’ve got a number of presentations on trends around the world, and what rising issues mean for business strategy and operations.

So for tonight’s talk I boiled them down to ten below that might be helpful, if perhaps a little obvious and a bit random.

Anyway, here they are, for what they are worth, which may not be much:

1) Governments are increasingly unable to tackle problems which are often clearly beyond their control. (energy, food) They are looking to business to be more solution than problem, and quickly.

2) UK Government is clearly in confusion about green incentives: FiTs, green tariffs, green deal, the CRC, Renewable Heat Incentive, have all faltered. Chinese, US and French Governments are somewhat paralyzed by election fever / regime change.

3) Business is increasingly expected to step in and make a serious consistent contribution to solving social and environmental issues.

4) Rio Earth Summit 2012 is unlikely to see major Govt action, but may be significant for business announcements and partnership commitments.

5) China’s latest Five Year Plan: Shift towards resource efficiency will be a game changer.

6) China’s middle class: Important to remember in China it is People vs. Govt more than People vs. Business. The dynamics are often very different indeed.

7) What can 400mn Chinese ‘soccer mom’ types mean for sustainability and consumer engagement? Rising wealth in Brazil, India and the CIVETS is also very significant opportunity for brands to engage on sustainability.

8) Fukushima and the recent UK debacle over investment criteria could be a major nail in the coffin of nuclear as a transition technology. Given the German ‘political’ decision it’s a distinct possibility.

9) Trust in institutions is wavering: Media for example. Big brands have an opportunity to win trust as a result.

10) Emerging market governments are becoming much more confident and a LOT more demanding on business: Reputation really matters as the landscape can change very quickly.

I’ve got quite lot more than this in various presentations, updated quarterly. Happy to come and discuss these with company teams and departments.


  1. this is interesting.

    but re 9):

    why would big brands have opp to win trust, if everyone else is seen as less trustworthy.. ?

  2. On the basis that employees and others are looking for institutions and organisations to trust. The idea of filling a vacuum I suppose.

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