How do you think 2022 might play out based on the rollercoaster ride we experienced last year?

While the pandemic continues to create challenges, responding to Covid-19 is also providing opportunities. There is a strong theme of collaboration that is helping organisations to survive and even thrive. And, while Covid-19 may be dominating the headlines our sustainability soothsayers say there is a growing focus on climate action, reducing waste and restoring nature.

Climate action on the rise

We’re seeing real momentum building around business transformation, especially bigger businesses, and I think 2022 will see that continue to grow. Our latest Business Monitor, which surveys business attitudes and actions around climate change every six months, shows after a dip in the middle of 2021, business belief in, and action on, climate change is rebounding. In terms of EECA’s own work with large energy users and emitters, we’re seeing unprecedented demand for our decarbonisation programmes and co-funding.

The motivation to decarbonise is in part being led offshore by multinationals requiring supply chain visibility, reinforced by a rise in consumer scrutiny. We know people want to see that the businesses they buy from are taking action, but if we’re going to get the momentum we need, more consumers really need to start asking questions and voting with their wallets and 2022 will see more taking this action.

Global commitments

We will see the further rise of the conscious consumer, increased action by government both locally and abroad, mobilisation of sustainable finance at a scale never seen before, and the realisation that now more than ever of a global community where we all have a role to play.

This will manifest in many ways. More scrutiny will be placed by customers on their supply chains, with a significant focus going on accounting for their scope 3 emissions. 

We expect to see global capital moving to support climate mitigation, adaption and social issues, and then sustainable food systems taking a front seat at COP27 in Egypt.

All this will place more pressure on the sustainability credentials of goods and services, with one thing I’m very certain of…the pace of change in these areas will only increase and may catch some organisations by surprise. 

Collaboration key to success

Whilst 2022 comes with a high degree of uncertainty, businesses have adapted well over the past couple of years, and the focus on carbon reduction and overall sustainability has not waned. I believe that focus will continue into 2022.

Through 2021 there was some significant progress in business collaboration, and this must continue in 2022 to ensure it stays relevant and is a feasible option for further sustainable innovation. 

The development and migration to biomass for heat generation will continue through 2022 and this will create some potential supply and demand issues. However, the changeover will become more viable as alternative fuel sources continue to experience price increases.

Vehicle electrification is an area that will continue to grow, and it will mean increased pressure on infrastructure to ensure the demands are suitably met. Particularly exciting for 2022 is the prospect of more viable options for electric vehicle supply, notably in the commercial sector.

As the costs of everyday items continue to increase, we do hope there is not a migration to cheap, unsustainable options. This rings true for both the commercial and home sectors, and I truly trust we have moved on from this narrowed minded approach.

Protecting and restoring nature

Like every business we are working and thinking differently in the face of the changes wrought by the pandemic. Covid-19 continues to cause hardship and anxiety but perhaps one silver lining has been the impetus it has given to working flexibly and using virtual meetings as the norm rather than the exception.

Another outcome has been Jobs for Nature which continues to help those in need, while also building a battalion of passionate and skilled conservationists whose contribution will be valued well into the future. So good news. But our biodiversity crisis remains unchanged with the majority of our native species in decline as we tackle conservation challenges from the mountains to the sea.

Looking to 2022, we believe and sincerely hope to see the increasingly singular focus on reducing carbon complemented by more action to protect and restore nature. Action for each is critical, but as with all complex systems, a singular focus on either is fatally flawed. For example, healthy natural ecosystems protect communities from climate change impacts like extreme weather, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes that nature-based solutions could help address nearly 40% of our climate change mitigation.

In 2022, the world will agree and adopt a suite of ambitious new global biodiversity targets, several of which highlight the critical links between healthy nature and a healthy society. International spotlight turns to biodiversity. 

Thinking local

In 2021, the theme of ‘Thinking Local’ came sharply into focus for us, and we see this as a major influence into 2022. As two 100% locally owned and operated co-operatives, ‘Thinking Local’ is how we solve our problems and do business and this year it has come even more to the fore. Seeing the impact of Covid-19 on local businesses and communities makes this local support even more imperative.

Focusing on renewables and reusables, pooling energy and materials and upcycling to reduce the reliance on less sustainable imports and finite natural resources.

Creating strong relationships

2021 saw more ups and downs than we could have imagined pre-Covid, but it’s surprising how much we’ve achieved despite the lockdowns, a strangled supply chain, and increased pressure on costs and resources.

Adopting a consultative process with all interested parties. We hope more attention on partnerships will make us a better business overall with more diverse thinking.