New Language of Climate Impact and Sustainability Emerging in 2023
As the pace of climate change quickens and attention to sustainable performance by brands and businesses becomes a centerpiece of marketplace competitive advantage, a new lexicon is emerging.
After surveying media channels for novel terms and words that help explain conditions we expect to face in the year ahead, here we provide a list of terms you are likely to encounter. Call them handles for events and developments that are bound to get more attention in the press and popular culture.
Danger Season — May to October
Summer isn’t just the warmer months typified by vacations and backyard barbecues. It is also a threat zone for climate change events from super storms, wildfires, droughts and floods. Evidence of this can be found in the record-breaking heat dome that swung over France, Germany, Spain and Britain last summer. It unleashed unprecedented daily temperature spikes that claimed upwards of 20,000 lives and played havoc with growing conditions for a wide array farmed commodities. Meanwhile super storm Hurricane Ian, the fifth most powerful on record, made landfall three times, leaving a path of unprecedented destruction that impacted many of Florida’s 47,000 farms. These conditions and similar events will likely persist year to year.
Blazing hot weather across the globe also hit supply chains, reduced crop yields and negatively impacted soil conditions. On top of the disruption to wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer created by the war in Ukraine, weather conditions helped contribute to a 10.9% rise in food prices overall by October 2022. Climate amplified supply chain challenges will continue to be a factor in the prices of food ingredients in the years ahead.
Rising summer temperatures and heat waves can manifest as sudden dry spells that quickly extract moisture from plants and soils. Flash Droughts are typified by a rapid onset that is harder to predict and also more damaging.
Experts and analysts predict it is likely the world will shoot past the 1.5˚ Celsius limit to global warming. It is characterized by the United Nations’ Paris Agreement on climate as a threshold goal to prevent irreversible climate damage. Even a half degree incremental increase in global temperatures could have serious consequences including melting ice sheets and rising sea levels, the thawing of arctic permafrost that could release trapped carbon and contribute to extinction of some animal species. Some of these events can’t be reversed. Impact on the southern hemisphere could have global consequences for food security and agriculture infrastructure.
According to a study by Accenture, among 2,000 corporations tracked, 34% of them currently have a public net zero commitment. However, the majority are likely to miss that target at the current pace of reductions. Clearly planet health is best served by working to eliminate emissions (to Real Zero) with less reliance on purchasing carbon offsets and capturing carbon rather than reducing its output. Ultimately the supply chain, which in the food industry is the source of 80% or more of emissions, will be a consideration in mitigation strategies. Hence the rapid rise of investment in low emissions protein technologies like precision fermentation.
Different than greenwashing (faking it), some companies are choosing a don’t ask/don’t tell approach out of fear their emissions mitigation efforts will be called out as inadequate or subpar. Important to note here, as consumers increasingly place priority on sustainable choice, there will be important reasons why brands and businesses need to communicate transparently their efforts toward sustainability improvements. For the very reason consumers increasingly demand it. In our view this is really a call for development of accepted industry sustainability standards and guidelines that all companies in any given category can work towards. This would create a level playing field and recognition of what constitutes best practices on the road to emissions improvement.
2023 — the year of sustainable choice
Science and marketplace forces are powerful and will cause every business to consider where they are on the sustainability readiness path. The sustainability practices leaders will step in front of these conditions as they work boldly to make progress on carbon footprint. Meantime shifts in consumer sentiment and preference will continue to gain traction as sustainable performance becomes the centerpiece of a sweeping culture change.
For the greater good of the planet and answering the consumer’s call for nutritious, healthy, ethical and sustainable choices, now is the time to focus on sustainable performances as a lever of marketplace advantage. The rewards will be forthcoming while consumers exercise their vote at the cash register on climate responsible values and performance.
As an investment in this important issue, we developed the first integrated turnkey platform to help brands and retailers optimize their sustainability policies and related communications strategies. Download our free guide below to read about the components of readiness best practices.
Regardless of where you might be on your organization’s sustainability readiness journey it might be advantageous to have a confidential, fresh-eyes conversation to level set on the (literal) prevailing winds and opportunities ahead. We’re here to help. Let’s talk.