One thing has become clear: sustainable and green businesses are not a fad, and they are here to stay. Customers are shopping with sustainability in mind more than ever and calling out companies for greenwashing and unethical practices. With the prevalence and importance of prioritizing people and planet, what new trends are shaping up for green businesses in 2023?
The Report and Green Businesses in 2023
For the past 16 years, the GreenBiz group has published its State of Green Business report. In each report, editors and analysts research a “broad spectrum of environmental and sustainability topics” to identify top trends businesses should be aware of for the coming year.
Below are six takeaways from this year’s report, the State of Green Business 2023.
- Green vs. Greening Jobs
Environmental jobs are becoming more common, which means there are new definitions of these jobs and their impacts. GreenBiz’s report identifies two types of environmental jobs at green businesses in 2023: green and greening.
Green jobs are those that “have a high green skills intensity” and examples include:
- Environmental Health Safety Engineer
- Sustainability Manager
- Energy Manager
- Environment Health and Safety Specialist
Greening jobs, meanwhile, are more traditional jobs that now need to be approached differently with sustainability at the forefront.
Some greening job examples are:
- Director of Public Works
- Power Generation Engineer
- Vice President Facilities
- Director of Regulatory Affairs
The top ranked skills of these jobs also reveal an evolving work landscape. From 2015 to 2021, knowledge of sustainability has ranked as the top skill, but other skills, like corporate social responsibility and sustainable development have jumped from lower-ranked skills to now some of the highest.
- Decarbonizing Transportation
To adhere to the Paris Agreement, public transportation and micromobility (single person modes of transportation like bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters and skateboards) options must double within the decade.
Transportation plays a big role in emissions, from delivery companies to commuting.
Companies around the world are starting to make strides with electric vehicles, aided and pushed by cities like New York, London, and Paris establishing zero- and low-emission zones.
People also need to actively choose alternate modes of transportation, but this is only possible through infrastructure and company support. Municipalities need to focus on expanding public transportation, creating safer bike lanes, and more. Companies, meanwhile, must offer more flexible working conditions and consider programs incentivizing their employees to carpool, bike, or take public transport.
According to the Shared-Use Mobility Center, if the top 50 cities in the US made investments in mass transit, electric vehicles, and innovations in shared mobility, the country could cut 100 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
- Sustainability Training on the Job
There’s a lot that goes into building sustainability into a business model, including education, habit creation, and support. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to start investing in education for their employees on best sustainability practices and how they lead to business and societal success.
There are many online resources on platforms including YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, and Terra.do offering courses like Climate Change: Learning for Action. Digital access to education is endless and more affordable, sometimes even free.
Sustainability education for your employees also expands beyond practices like recycling or lowering your carbon footprint. It’s also about creating the most ethical and equitable workplace for all, which is why DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) training is essential.
- Mandatory Carbon Disclosures
The fate of our planet means it’s time for companies to disclose information about their practices and policies affecting human and environmental well-being.
Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom now all require financial disclosures aligned with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a similar rule, Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors.
The idea behind these rules is that the climate crisis poses various risks, including financial ones, and therefore voluntary and unregulated disclosure can no longer be accepted.
In the past two years, thousands of companies have expressed support for the TCFD, up from less than one
- Investing in Natural Capital
Companies investing in fossil fuels is the wrong direction for our planet—natural capital is the new frontier.
Natural capital is the world's stock of natural resources, including geology, soils, air, water and all living organisms. Assets that natural capital provide are called ecosystem services and they’re critical for the future.
There are four categories of ecosystem services:
- Provisioning Services: A benefit or good that can be extracted from nature, such as food, trees, fish and livestock, plant-based materials that can be turned into clothing or other goods.
- Regulating Services: Benefits of ecosystems regulating natural phenomena, such as bee pollination, tree roots stabilizing soil to prevent erosion, and bacteria decomposing waste.
- Cultural Services: A “non-material benefit that contributes to the development and cultural advancement of people,” like the spreading of ideas and creativity, and recreation.
- Supporting Services: The processes that allow basic life systems to thrive on Earth, like photosynthesis or the water cycle.
All green businesses in 2023 need to do is look at the World Economic Forum’s estimate: protecting nature and biodiversity could generate $10 trillion annually in business opportunities and nearly 400 million new jobs.
There is no path to decarbonization without major investments in natural capital.Grant Harrison, director and senior analyst, sustainable finance and ESG at GreenBiz
- The Rise of Geothermal
According to the US Department of Energy, capturing just 0.1% of the planet’s heat could supply humanity’s energy needs for two million years.
Geothermal could be the answer to this, but solar and wind continue to dominate. Geothermal energy is the thermal energy in the Earth's crust and capturing it could be the energy answer experts have been looking for.
Solar and wind quickly became the leaders of renewable energy because of their lower price points, but thanks to legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, geothermal is now more affordable than ever.
If governments and companies, together, invest more in geothermal it will become more accessible and life changing.
The future starts now and green businesses in 2023 would be wise to take stock of new trends and adopt or support them. Working together, a wave of change is possible.