January always brings predictions as to what the rest of the year will hold, trends in environmentalism and sustainability included. Here are seven sustainable trends predicted to drive environmental action this year:
Data Is King
Data already shapes so much of our daily lives, from digital targeting to our GPS systems; it makes sense that environmentalism would start to lean more on data to drive problem-solving. From reducing carbon emissions to creating more efficient supply routes, data will grow sustainability in 2022.
Renewable Energy Still Growing
Renewable energy took off over the last few years and is expected to continue growing in 2022. The U.S. Energy Information Administration summarized this prediction best: “For renewable energy sources, new additions of solar and wind generating capacity have been offset somewhat by reduced generation from hydropower this year. As a result, we forecast that the share of all renewables in U.S. electricity generation will average 20% in 2021, about the same as last year, before rising to 22% in 2022.”
Activist Shareholders Moving and Shaking
Activist shareholders have already been leveraging their influence to enact company change: Exxon being a prime example. According to the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 802 proposals were submitted by shareholders during 2021. That equals an 11 percent increase. Shareholders are discovering the power they have to leverage business decisions, and that power will most certainly be wielded in greater measure on behalf of the environment in 2022.
ESG Driving Decision-making
Looking closer at business decisions, more and more companies are looking to prioritize ESG when plotting their course for the year. ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance, is a decision-making framework and reporting standard for companies that can lead to both new internal initiatives and corporate strategies as well as external business practices. And, according to McKinsey, there are a lot of ways to pursue the ‘E’ in the equation: “[E] includes the energy your company takes in and the waste it discharges, the resources it needs, and the consequences for living beings as a result. Not least, E encompasses carbon emissions and climate change. Every company uses energy and resources; every company affects, and is affected by, the environment.”
Carbon Offsetting Becoming More Common
The world is in a race to decarbonize. But what happens if your industry is not one that can easily make that happen, like aviation? That is when offsetting (or, in simple terms, paying other people to reduce their carbon emissions on your behalf) is the optimal choice. In 2022, we can expect more companies to follow the example of brands like Delta and purchase offsets.
Electric Vehicle Use Expanding
The days of electric vehicles being too expensive for ordinary Americans are numbered. Following the laws of supply and demand, EVs are becoming more affordable and readily available. As more automakers transition to manufacturing EVs and charging infrastructure expands, we can expect to see a greater number of these vehicles on the road.
Innovation Continuing to Make Things Better
Yes, this is not exactly a trend. But it is a truth to which all champions of both the free market and environmentalism can attest. Innovation is what will solve climate change and make our planet a better place, and 2022 will be another year of technological development and solutions.
Will these predicted trends be what drives environmental action this year? Time will tell. However, one thing is sure: 2022 will be another banner year for positive environmental change.
Kelvey Vander Hart is a native Iowan, a member of the American Conservation Coalition, and a communications specialist at Reason Foundation.