Unveiling the Top 12 Business Sustainability Issues for 2020 (2023)

In the dynamic landscape of business sustainability, 2020 emerges as a pivotal year, with diverse challenges requiring strategic attention and collaborative efforts. The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) brings forth insights from global experts, shedding light on the pressing issues that demand our focus and innovation.

1. Addressing Poverty and Youth Unemployment in Emerging Markets

Oreva Atanya, a Sustainability Practitioner from Lagos Business School, Nigeria, emphasizes the need for targeted efforts in emerging markets like Nigeria. Tackling poverty and youth unemployment requires a holistic approach involving job creation and integration of the underserved in business operations.

2. The Circular Economy: A Path to Sustainability

Tima Bansal, Executive Director of NBS, Canada, champions the circular economy as a sustainable solution to our resource challenges. Shifting from a linear model, the circular economy transforms waste into a valuable resource, offering a strategic approach to combat climate change and pollution.

3. Government Action: Catalyst for System-Wide Change

Ayman Chowdhury, head of Secretariat at Global Compact Network Canada, underscores the critical role of government in creating a framework that compels businesses to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Clear policy signals are essential for businesses to integrate sustainability into their core strategies.

4. Climate Change Performance Monitoring: A Call for Standardization

Giulia Cricenti, Sustainability Consultant from Brazil, emphasizes the urgency of standardized reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change actions. Regular, transparent reporting can provide valuable insights for companies, governments, and associations to prioritize climate-related initiatives.

5. Holistic Thinking and Action: Beyond Single-Issue Focus

Frederik Dahlmann, Associate Professor at Warwick Business School, United Kingdom, advocates for a more integrated approach to sustainability. Recognizing the interconnectedness of sustainability issues, businesses need to embrace holistic thinking and consider the interplay of various factors to achieve the UN SDGs.

6. Meaningful Disclosures for Climate Change Action

Martin Fryer, Sustainability Manager at Mercury Energy, New Zealand, highlights the importance of transparent disclosure in the face of climate change. The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework becomes a focal point, aiming for effective and consistent reporting to drive climate action.

7. Social Justice in Climate Transition: Balancing Progress and Inclusivity

Yvonne Jeffery, Manager of Sustainability at Vermilion Energy, Canada, expresses concern about the potential social implications of a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy. The focus shifts to how businesses can anticipate and mitigate issues, supporting a socially just transition across sectors.

8. Impacts of Action on SDGs: Measuring Progress Effectively

Deborah Lucas, Director at Deloitte New Zealand, emphasizes the need for comprehensive impact measurement, particularly concerning progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Understanding and measuring the real-world impacts of sustainability initiatives are crucial for meaningful progress.

9. Public Advocacy for Climate Change Action

Tom Lyon, Dow Professor at the University of Michigan, United States, underscores the power of public advocacy in influencing climate change policies. With corporate responsibility in mind, businesses need to counteract opposing influences and advocate publicly for climate action.

10. Decarbonization in Oil and Gas: A Crucial Industry Shift

Rana Mustansir, Program and Business Development at Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance, Pakistan, identifies decarbonization in the oil and gas industry as a key sustainability challenge for 2020. Shifting towards renewable energy sources and supporting the broader energy transition becomes imperative for this sector.

11. Business Influencing Policy: Beyond Green Operations

Auden Schendler, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, United States, calls for businesses to go beyond green operations and actively advocate for climate policies. Building a social movement and pressuring politicians are essential for driving large-scale, systemic change.

12. Climate Change Business Leadership: Navigating Economic Stability

Bob Willard, Speaker and Author at Sustainability Advantage, Canada, addresses the challenge of engaging business leaders in climate change mitigation. The focus is on packaging the climate crisis message in a way that aligns with business interests and leveraging public procurement to drive corporate contributions to SDG 13: Climate Action.

In conclusion, 2020 presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for businesses to redefine their sustainability strategies. By addressing these top 12 issues, companies can contribute meaningfully to a more sustainable and resilient future.

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