As 2019 winds down, expect a steady stream of predictions for the business climate in the coming year and decade. There’ll be exciting trends in technology, concerning forecasts on climate change, and contradictory projections for the economy.
In the midst of all that — here are some ‘for sure’ positive trends you can take to the bank for social and environmental impact. Developments in 2019 set the stage for continued trends in 2020 and beyond. There’s a new level of awareness and support for sustainability in many sectors. According to Porter Novelli, a global consultancy using marketing and PR to make a positive social impact on the world, the Top 10 Trends of 2019 demonstrate ‘Purpose’ is the new normal for business.
Here’s what’s on the Porter Novelli list:
- Climate urgency takes center stage. The United Nations reported we have 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage and companies around the world responded by accelerating their goals and commitments.
- CEO activism goes mainstream. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon entered the gun control debate and Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack took guns off the shelves. More than 180 CEOs opposed state efforts to restrict reproductive rights.
- ESG extends beyond Wall Street. The importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics reached record highs. According to Deloitte research, more than 80 percent of mainstream investors use ESG disclosures to make decisions.
- Gender identity opens opportunities for expression. As consumers look for companies that share their values, more are taking an inclusive approach to gender identity and expression. Mattel launched the first line of gender-neutral dolls. More companies are offering progressive employee benefits for those identifying as transgender or non-binary.
- Frictionless giving gains traction. Giving in-the-moment is easier than ever with new platforms and services like Instagram’s donation sticker.
- Fashion accelerates sustainability. Research indicates 52 percent of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. are demanding more sustainability in the apparel industry. Fashion houses are eliminating virgin nylon and retailers are helping consumers make choices by offering 100 percent sustainable fabrics.
- Equity advances the D&I conversation. While diversity and inclusion have been in the conversation for years, Equity became a new focus in 2019. Equity speaks to fair access and advancement for all people, while also striving to eliminate barriers to full participation of some groups.
- Plastics take precedence. It’d be difficult to find a company that didn’t make a plastics commitment in 2019. Tesco is testing a plastic-free produce aisle. Budweiser created a soccer field made entirely of recycled plastic cups from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
- Youth leads a movement. Research reveals that 87 percent of Gen Z are inspired when their peers take a stand on issues. Already Greta, Emma, and Zendaya are household names.
- Employee activism increases. Walmart employees staged a walkout to share their views on gun sales. Wayfair employees protested furniture being sold to detention centers holding migrant children.
As we continue to develop a thriving region and resilient coastal economy, these global trends are supporting our efforts. With a more equitable future and more sustainable planet — a better business climate is in the cards.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.