Although a write off on many fronts, 2020 showed some promising results in the move towards a greener, more sustainable future. Here is a recap of the greater things that happened and what to expect in 2021.
Many plastic bans were passed, with more planned for 2021
Although governments around the world had quite a lot on their plates in 2020, a few plastic polices came into force.
Kenya extended their plastic policies to protected areas such as national parks, beaches and conservation sites, while China is expecting to ban plastic straws in restaurants and nondegradable bags across towns and cities hopefully very soon.
Yet some countries are proposing even further action. At a virtual conference in November 2020, two thirds of UN Member states declared their willingness to support a global treaty to combat ocean plastic pollution.
Although we still have a lot to learn about how effective these types of policies are, as this analysis by the Nicholas Institute at Duke University suggests – it’s a step in the right direction.
We continued to demand better, greener products and services
Ask anyone if they want more sustainable products, and most will say yes. The pandemic did not change that. Consumer demand for more transparency and sustainable products from companies remained strong – if not stronger!
Although consumers appeared optimistic about the environment at the start of the pandemic, a new study by GlobalWebIndex showed that this positivity was short-lived. Amongst a whole range of environmental woes, 43% were concerned about increased waste due to Covid-19 and 38% we’re worried about plastic pollution – making these issues more pertinent than rising sea levels and deforestation.
Consequently, this has put more pressure on companies to do the right thing. 72% of consumers said companies behaving more sustainably has become more important to them since pandemic, with 46% committing to buy more from eco-friendly brands.
According to an online survey conducted by Eon, since the first lockdown 36% had already started buying more products and services from companies who have a positive impact on the environment.
Hence the desire for better, more sustainable products aligns with their growth.
Market for sustainable products continues to grow
As demand for sustainable products increased, so have they started to gain more market share.
According to a US study by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, despite only representing 16.1% share of the market, sustainable-marketed products accounted for 54.7% market growth of consumer packaged goods in 2019.
They also grew more than 7 times faster than conventional-marketed products between 2015 and 2019. Growth in sales of sustainable-marketed products remained consistent during the pandemic.
Companies progressed towards their plastic packaging targets
In 2020, we’ve obtained hard evidence of company’s achieving their plastic packaging targets. Transparency about a company’s plastic packaging practices is needed so we can hold them accountable.
Set against their 2018 baseline, the second New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Progress report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, provided insights into how well companies are measuring up. Although many still have a long way to go, some have made real progress.
Since we’ve seen an exponential growth in online purchases, we hope that more online retailers such as Amazon start taking their plastic practices more seriously. They recently came under fire in this report from Oceana, for the amount of plastic they generated in 2019, with higher numbers expected for 2020.
Supermarkets have fared well this year, and Lidl became the very first UK supermarket to incorporate Prevented Ocean Plastic into their plastic packaging, followed by Waitrose, with many more to come in 2021!
Green investment funds showed greater resilience
While the market experienced many lows, one surprising outcome was the resilience of green investments funds.
Sustainable fund manager, BlackRock found that during the height of the pandemic 88% of sustainable funds outperformed their non-sustainable equivalents.
Similarly, investment researchers at Morningstar found that assets in European sustainable funds increased by 20% between the first quarter and the second quarter, while the overall European fund universe only rose by half that figure.
We’ve also seen investments from companies such as Circulate Capital in recycling infrastructure in Asia, where recycling systems remain heavily underfunded.
Many more great projects are in the works for 2021.
Although 2020 was a year that most of us would like to put behind us, many great things happened on the sustainability front. In 2021 we hope to continue celebrating wins, however big or small – at every chance we get!