Sustainability and environmental protection have been trending concepts over the past decade. When the pandemic hit, however, some wondered whether the world would become too distracted to take action against the climate change crisis. The opposite happened. Since the start of the pandemic, global awareness and concern about environmental issues have taken a front seat. In fact, environmental protection is the top concern for Gen Z adults worldwide in 2021, outranking other pressing topics such as disease prevention and unemployment.
Because climate change is top of mind for this generation, they’re demanding more from the brands they interact with. Before making a purchasing decision, consumers are considering companies’ sustainability and ethical practices. In response, businesses are beginning to take sustainability more seriously, pushing toward more transparency and committing to reduce their carbon emissions. Before the United Nations’ 2021 COP26 Climate Change Conference, for example, more than 1,000 companies announced they would adopt science-based targets to reduce emissions.
As businesses’ role in societal change continues to rise, so will consumers’ expectations of how companies approach sustainability. Company leaders now recognize their role in environmental change and are committed to protecting the earth. In light of Earth Day this month, let’s look at some of the impressive steps entrepreneurs are taking to create a greener world for the next generation:
1. Supporting green startups
According to PwC, $87.5 billion of VC funding was invested in climate tech from July 2020 to June 2021. This represents a growing trend among VCs to focus their resources on sustainable companies. According to Dan Conner, general partner at Ascend Venture Capital, green technology provides an exciting new opportunity for startup founders interested in positively impacting the world. “These environmental conditions are creating new markets, and startups can take root to grow fast,” he says. “They should be leaping at the open market opportunities that will define the space in the future. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to power the future state of the economy.”
He believes companies have a responsibility to consider their impact on climate change as they innovate. “High levels of carbon in the atmosphere will intensify discretely, not continuously. The scale of destruction from related natural disasters is unpredicted, and our economy isn’t yet engineered to match,” says Conner. “In such economic environments, it would be wildly irresponsible for businesses and startups not to consider the impacts of this widespread transition on the competitive landscape.”
Conner goes on to say: “To make a financial commitment to economic, social, and environmental stability is to balance society’s needs today with the demands of tomorrow. This vision of sustainability can be advanced through the sway of global capital markets and the investors who drive them.” Ascend Venture Capital has joined the ranks of VCs prioritizing green tech and is committed to backing companies that it and its partners can feel proud of.
2. Creating clear road maps for change
Although many companies promise to work toward more environmentally friendly practices, they struggle to meet their goals. In fact, nearly 98% of organizations fail to reach their sustainability targets. So how can companies better set themselves up for success? Having a sustainability road map is a strong start.
Courtney Regan, director of global marketing and brand development at Cosmetic Solutions, recognizes the global impact of sustainable business practices. “Companies need to move from incremental improvements to systemic approaches that create a net positive impact on the world,” she says. “Not only will these initiatives help improve the quality of our lives, but they will also protect our ecosystem and preserve natural resources for generations to come.”
To do this, Cosmetic Solutions has created a clear, purpose-driven road map of how its business will make an impact. “We have created a holistic sustainability program within our company that advances our mission by following three key pillars: environmental health, social equity, and economic vitality,” Regan explains. “As we implement current and future initiatives, our dedicated team ensures they positively impact each of the three pillars as we continue the journey to a more sustainable future.”
3. Expanding obtainable sustainability goals
Sustainability is at the forefront of most organizations’ thoughts, but it can be challenging for company leadership to know whether their efforts make an impact. NanoGuard Technologies CEO Larry Clarke recognizes this challenge: “Early-stage sustainability in the corporate world tends to start by setting metrics in ‘low-hanging fruit’ areas. This is not a negative thing, as the best possible way to gain momentum and credibility with those in the positions that allocate funds is to prove the efficacy of your sustainability efforts.”
Green tech startups like NanoGuard Technologies have recognized that the key to lasting change is helping companies broaden their view of what’s attainable so they can hit certain metric-based goals. For Clarke, this means making it easier for organizations to reduce food waste. “Our focus is to provide strategies for companies moving into and along the continuum of their sustainability strategies. Sustainability has not yet matured in the corporate world, with many companies still developing metrics they feel are impactful yet obtainable,” he says. “Our goal is to expand what is viewed as obtainable by the companies we work with.”
Around one-third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide is wasted every year. By helping companies in the food and agriculture space reduce post-harvest waste, NanoGuard Technologies not only pushes them to reach their sustainability goals, but also works toward improving access to food worldwide.
For businesses in all sectors, sustainability is no longer optional—consumers demand it. Savvy entrepreneurs aren’t viewing this as a threat but as an opportunity to positively impact the world. As more sustainability initiatives emerge, we can expect more companies to rise to the challenge in order to make the world a healthier home for generations to come.