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The Fifth Estate is back in the saddle for 2021, and ready to explore the big stories in sustainability for another year. 

So, what do we think the new year will bring? 

If we were wise, we’d learn from the unforeseeable global disruptions of 2020 and refrain from making predictions. But here’s to throwing caution to the wind. 

Check out these five trends The Fifth Estate thinks will shape property and business this year:

  1. Net zero commitments 

They came in thick and fast in 2020, with international commitments out of JapanChinaSouth Korea and now the US under President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious climate regime. With the US back in the game, it’s looking increasingly likely the Australian government will follow suit.

Corporates, including Santos and Origin Energy, also fired off net zero announcements.

But beware of bogus net zero commitments without pathways to get there – we’ll be watching out for those.

2. Money is getting greener, fast

The rise of ESG has been happening for a while and the momentum is palpable. Investment communities are wising up, with reporting on climate risk now serious business.

There’s already been some major developments on this front, including the European Central Bank becoming the first central bank to accept sustainability-linked bonds as collateral and Prince Charles backing a new “natural capital” asset class to fast track protection for nature-based industries, such as fishing, agriculture and forestry.

3. Back to school

People are starting to recognise that the world is changing, and those wanting to take advantage of the green revolution should upskill fast.

The Fifth Estate expects a rush to tool-up in 2021. Green Building Institute’s Daniel Wurm expects increasing interest in his courses that teach trades people about sustainability, while several universities told The Fifth Estate they are bolstering their sustainability offerings with new or improved courses.

4. The construction industry joins the 21st century 

The construction industry was identified as the real battleground for sustainability at our Building Circularity event in November last year, and we can only hope that 2021 is the year things start to improve.

The industry’s failure to modernise has become brutally apparent in recent years, but NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler is on a mission to stop the construction of shoddy, non-compliant buildings in this state.

With the help of digital tools and modern manufacturing techniques, we can expect better buildings that last longer, perform better, and waste less material during construction. 

5. Waste becomes big business

The penny has dropped on the circular economy and waste management is suddenly looking more glamorous, as people recognise the valuable materials that can be recovered for other, high value uses. 

The Fifth Estate expects to see more whizz-bang manufacturing techniques that recover resources and turn them into new products, a trend that will be supported by a $249.6 million federal government investment in Australia’s waste and recycling capacity announced in the Covid-recovery budget

Private equity firm CPE Capital clearly sees the value in the waste business, offering to buy out the waste management group Bingo Industries for $2.5 billion.

2 replies on “Five big trends shaping sustainability in 2021”

  1. ‘The end of the city-No, not quite’ by Sarah Barns at insidestory.org.au is an important read for emerging trends.
    Here is a quote: “Like the radical suburban experiments of a bygone era, this public health crisis may yet allow for renewed kinds of making and connecting in previously dormant suburbs and neglected peripheral spaces. It may not be a “flight to the suburbs” in a retrograde sense, but a casting off of rigid modes of separation between home and work, industry and nature, as expressed in city forms. Australia’s suburbs may yet be well-suited to a coming era of biophilic urbanism, one that embraces “green infrastructure,” regenerative agriculture and productive allotments of either low or high-density urban farms.”

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