As we try to look forward to the new year, it is almost impossible to see beyond the story still overrunning from 2020 – COVID19 and the terrible devastation it has had on countries, society in general, and on individuals and families.
But there are other urgent things we also need to tackle to help safeguard the future of the planet so I wanted to take a look ahead to some of the Sustainability trends that are expected to take centre stage this year.
In November, the UK is hosting the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference – otherwise known as COP26.
It takes place in Glasgow from the 1st to the 12th of November and this places the UK at the heart of the global sustainability conversation and gives us the opportunity to be seen to make a difference.
So, here’s a taste of what I believe are things to come this year.
This coming year will be pivotal in building a sustainable future
The changing nature of the workplace
If COVID has taught us anything it is that we can operate in different ways. We will therefore see questions about the role of the office in a post-covid society, and this will have an impact on our towns and cities.
Will we all rush back into the office? Do we even need to? And what will that do for all that real estate?
And what have we learned from 2020 about new ways of working?
This could be a time of change with companies rotating staff attendance in smaller offices and this could fundamentally change the working day.
Why would we want to rush back into the rush hour crush if we don’t need to? Anyone and everyone could see what a difference the lack of traffic made to the environment during the global lockdown.
The rise of renewables
2050 is really not that far away and the UK Government and many others are signed up to achieving zero carbon by then.
I therefore think that 2021 will come to be seen as an important turning point in the fight against fossil fuels and the cleaning of energy grids.
We are rapidly on course to regularly meet the majority of our electricity needs from cleaner technologies and this is only going to increase.
That also makes the case for low carbon, electric heating from heat pumps much stronger and that means that we will see the end of the dominance of the gas boiler.
The Sustainable consumer
Also driving that change in the way we heat our homes and the wider society will be the emerging strength of the consumer.
Everyone now understands the importance of looking beyond short-term consumption and focusing on a more sustainable society.
I think 2021 will be a year when consumers really start to make purchasing decisions based on sustainability.
This in turn will help increase demand and, by the nature of any market, bring down the price of renewables and make them even more attractive and the speed of change even more rapid.
The global goal
Sustainability is now rightly seen as a global issue, so in 2021 it will become even more important that countries around the world look at how can we work together to find solutions.
That is why I think COP26 being held later this year in Glasgow is so important.
With the UK Government making the right noises about being ‘greener’ than ever, we have an opportunity to put past divisions behind us and lead the way to a truly global approach that will encourage others to play their part.
The new US President is also promising to re-sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement when he takes office this week, so one of the most important player is now back behind the green agenda, which can only bode well for the environment.
The real carbon cost
Where I think this is also leading is a discussion about embodied carbon, and we need everyone to understand why this is so important.
Consumers will demand more answers about the sustainability of the products they consume, but there is also a movement to simply consume less.
That means that we all need to debate and solve the issues of how to sustain society, because we cannot just continue to live in such a disposable way. It is simply no longer sustainable.
As a manufacturer, we are already looking at the whole lifecycle of our products so that we can further reduce the impact on the environment and this trend will only continue and force all manufacturers to do the same.
COVID-19 has disrupted markets and economies worldwide and the future will look back and characterise COVID in much the same way we look at the Pre-war/Post-war eras of the 20th century.
If the global pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that with the right conditions drastic changes to the way we live and work are possible to achieve very quickly.
For me, I think this period and this coming year will be pivotal; the global imperative of building a Sustainable future will continue to drive positive change - while the lessons learned from 2020 have built up the competence and confidence required for these changes to happen at pace.
As António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in his New Year's message: "Every government, city, business and individual can play a part in achieving this vision."
Jack Bain is a member of the Sustainability Team