What's in store? Better than last year for sure

There’s both good news and sobering realities in the 2015 State of Green Business report by Greenbiz and Trucost. The annual survey of 4800 global firms and how they are engaging with sustainability in real and measurable terms shows that in some firms things are definitely heading downhill. The number of clean tech patents has decreased compared to previous years, and there has been a levelling off or in some cases retrograde motion on emissions reduction activities, reducing pollution and waste or being smarter about water use.

On the bright side, chairman of Greenbiz Joel Makower says there are some companies taking on new and bigger challenges, and the world of sustainable business is still vibrant, innovative and maturing.

“And there are continued signs of hopeful progress, such as the growing number of corporate commitments around renewable energy purchases, and the burgeoning trend of companies adopting science-based sustainability goals,” Makower says in the report’s introduction.

Looking at the emerging trends, the report says companies will increasingly need to respond to demands from investors and activists to provide real, science-based metrics around sustainability goals.

They are also going to need to engage with policy levers.

“One measure of company engagement going forward will be their proactive involvement on political issues that could accelerate the transition to a low-carbon and more sustainable economy. Can companies afford to sit on the sidelines, letting the political process unfold — or worse, playing defence against changes that might roil the status quo? Or will they start lobbying, individually and collectively, for carbon pricing, for example, or for removing the various roadblocks to accelerating deployment of renewable energy and other clean technologies?”

Another big trend to watch for are stranded assets and the impact they have on balance sheets and forward planning, or in some cases, lack thereof.

Denial, however, is not an option for either the fossil fuel companies or those that have invested heavily in them like pension funds.

The explosive growth of green bonds, the divestment movement, an increasing number of companies taking natural capital impacts into account, and the successful bottom-line results being shown by firms innovating in the sustainability space all point towards positive change.

“The increasing flow of green finance shows there will be three types of winners in tomorrow’s economy: companies that use resources more efficiently, those that make products or services to help their customers become more resource efficient, and investors that provide the capital to make it all happen.”

One trend in relation to the property sector is that the US Green Building Council reported a 2 per cent drop in the number of LEED-certified projects for new construction between 2013 and 2014, but an increase in the number of LEED-certified retrofits.

  • Access the full report here