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Nature Centricity, Collaboration And Diversity: 2024 Outlook For Sustainability

From nature-centric strategies to collaborative alliances and a focus on board diversity, the year 2024 may unfold as a pivotal chapter in the global commitment to a more equitable and sustainable future


As the calendar flips to 2024, a sense of cautious optimism hangs in the air. The spectre of climate change still looms, but a renewed focus on environmental solutions, social equity, and corporate responsibility offers a glimmer of hope. This year we can expect to see major shifts in how business, government, and civil society work together to build a more sustainable and equitable future.

Nature Takes Centre Stage in Sustainability Strategies

Companies are embracing the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)-aligned nature targets, setting concrete goals for protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services. For example, Mars, the multinational company known for its M&M sweets, has recently revisited its emissions reduction targets, marking the second update in less than two years.

According to media reports, the CEO of the company, Poul Weihrauch, said, “2050 can seem to be in the distant future, but the progress we make in the next seven years is critical. My generation of CEOs has the ability and responsibility to deliver actual emission reductions and put business on a clear path to net zero by 2050.”

In September 2023, the privately-owned giant declared a renewed commitment to achieving net-zero emissions, signalling a notable shift in its sustainability objectives. The company aims to slash carbon emissions by an ambitious 50 per cent – equivalent to around 15 million metric tons – by 2030, encompassing its entire value chain. This revised target, scrutinised by the SBTi, is bench-marked against a 2015 baseline.


Collaboration for Shared Prosperity

In 2024, we can expect to see stronger partnerships between companies, governments, and civil society organisations (CSOs) working towards shared goals. The focus will shift from greenwashing to creating genuinely sustainable livelihoods, particularly for marginalised communities disproportionately affected by climate change. Initiatives like the UN Global Compact’s SDG Ambition Hub are connecting companies with relevant CSOs to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Businesses have been conscious of the surroundings they operate in and the stakeholders in their value chains. Companies have been collaborating with multiple organisations to ensure that the communities directly or indirectly impacted by their operations have a sustainable lifestyle and can access basic amenities.

“We are working extensively with the truck driver communities and have set up health centres for them across India. Each one of the drivers has been issued a card through which they can access any health facility. We started these facilities and awareness programs initially to create awareness about HIV Aids when was considered a taboo, but we expanded the program to include vision impairment, high blood pressure, etc. We also have an awareness program for tuberculosis in line with the India’s goal of ending tuberculosis by 2025”, said Rinika Grover, Head of Sustainability & CSR, Apollo Tyres, talking about how Apollo has been collaborating and aims to continue the path.


Navigating the Carbon Maze 

2024 can be the year of the carbon taxonomy. As economies race to meet net-zero targets, clear and consistent definitions of what constitutes a “sustainable” activity are crucial. Businesses will need to navigate this complex landscape carefully, ensuring their sustainability claims are backed by credible data and aligned with evolving taxonomies.

“Today, sustainability has become a key priority for businesses worldwide. We are seeing organisations embarking on a roadmap to integrate sustainability as an integral part of their strategy and the way they do business. For India as a country, we aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2070. Achieving carbon neutrality cannot happen without participation, contribution, and support from each other. It is essential to integrate a sustainable way of thinking in our professional and personal lives and adopt LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment),” said Agendra Kumar, Managing Director, Esri India.


“While referring to sustainability, we cannot stress the importance of Geographic information system (GIS) enough. GIS provides a comprehensive platform for integrating and visualising diverse environmental data, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions by mapping and analysing various sustainability factors. Stakeholders can leverage the capabilities of GIS to gain valuable insights, identify opportunities for improvement and make informed decisions to contribute to a more sustainable future.  It facilitates the overlay of information on land use, biodiversity, water resources and energy consumption onto infrastructure assets, allowing for the identification of patterns, relationships and areas for improvement,” he added.


Human Sustainability in the Climate Crisis

The mental health toll of the climate crisis is no longer a hidden cost. In 2024, expect to see increased recognition of the link between climate anxiety, depression and decreased productivity. Businesses are starting to understand that employee well-being is vital for a resilient workforce.

According to media reports, confirming a correlation between the exposure to particulate matter (PM) in the air and mental health, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that fine PM2.5 and coarse PM 10 have been associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

ICMR quoted another study conducted in Seoul on the risk of depression and anxiety due to pollution in pregnant women. The cohort study assessed maternal exposure of 1,481 women to PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and 03 during each trimester.

“The results indicated that exposure during the second trimester to PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 was linked to an increased risk of depressive symptoms. Similarly, exposure to 03 during the third trimester was associated with depressive symptoms,” ICMR said.

Diversity Takes a Seat at the Boardroom Table

2024 is expected to see growing pressure for increased board diversity, not just in terms of gender but also in terms of race, ethnicity, and expertise. Studies show that diverse boards make better decisions, leading to improved financial performance and social responsibility.

“It is about networks, but it’s not about the traditional networks we’ve been using. I really want to expand my network. If I already have women board members, they can sometimes help me expand. The other important thing is really changing the criteria. We talked about networking; the thing that goes hand in hand with networking is expanding the criteria of who you’re looking for,” said Celia Huber, a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s Silicon Valley office in a podcast about her report called ‘Gender diversity on boards’.

2024 promises to be a year of crucial developments in the pursuit of a sustainable and equitable future. Whether these promises translate into tangible progress remains to be seen, but the renewed focus on nature, collaboration, human well-being and responsible governance offers a reason for cautious hope.

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