#SustyLearn: Five Business Sustainability Trends for 2017

2017 is five months gone!

Just as the fifth month marks the onset of appearances (baby bump) in a pregnant woman, signs of sustainability should have begun protruding in many organisations.  We present below five key corporate trends that are critically important in advancing business sustainability goals in 2017.

  1. The need for corporate reporting is becoming more popular

Sustainability is gradually gaining momentum in Africa and no business wants to be left out. Within the current decade, sustainability has evolved more than ever before with the growing popularity of reporting mechanisms such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the introduction of Integrated Reporting (IR).

The present business atmosphere demands companies to start reporting their sustainability and social investments to all stakeholders. Already, many multinationals have been compelled to align to global reporting standards and there is a possibility that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) would soon be requested to provide better evidences of their environmental, social, and governance footprints.

African businesses will therefore do themselves good in the sustainability journey by voluntarily aligning to international guidelines/standards as they go through with their 2017 goals.

  1. Sustainability has gone beyond internal operations

Sustainability-focused companies are beginning to shift towards implementing sustainability beyond their internal operations with the focus of strengthening their upstream and downstream supply in a manner that tackles human rights and contributes to social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

In 2015, the nonprofit group Shift that helps organizations to implement the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), developed the UNGP reporting framework, which companies such as Ericsson, Nestle, and Unilever are already utilising to strengthen human rights reporting and performance.

In 2017, businesses need to comply with local regulations, tax obligations, whilst promoting peace in their countries through governance and accountability. Moreover, stakeholder engagement should be made priority in business operations, especially in communicating strategies and policies.

  1. Partnership is the way

United Nations’ SDG 17 calls for a revitalization of global partnership for sustainable development.  Just as partnership has been classed as highly important for the actualisation of sustainable development, it is also key for the sustainability of any business. More so, with the continuous establishment of more businesses around the world, especially in developing Africa, businesses can only get things done with the inclusion of others. Public-private partnerships that not only drive profitability but also guarantee sustainable livelihoods for all stakeholders has become ‘the new black’.

  1. Green or no business

When world’s most influential companies commit to going renewable, it is evident global business operations have switched to green. Corporate energy buyers want renewable energy; nearly 100 global companies have signed on to the RE100 initiative, a commitment to source all of their energy from renewables; and the government of many countries have committed to going renewable before the next 15 years. Already, many Sub-Saharan African countries have signed major environmental agreements to tackle climate change, which should soon become part of the laws of many of these countries.

Investors and global stock exchanges are also taking notice, especially in regard to how carbon-intensive companies are analysing business impacts under scenarios where carbon pollution is reduced at levels that would limit global warming to 2-degrees Celsius or less – the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

More than ever, investors are aiming these questions at energy-intensive companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, which are already struggling financially as global oil demand is waning.

Certainly, investors must be more interested in green investments than ever before. What then are African businesses waiting for?

5. SDGs will guide business strategies and actions

In 2015, more than 190 world leaders committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending extreme poverty, eliminating longstanding inequalities and fighting climate change.

Two years going, worldwide momentum behind these internationally supported goals continues to gain strength.




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