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The Slow Trudge Toward Greater Environmental Sustainability

Nov. 2, 2022
Organizations are stepping up their sustainability games, but overall climate change progress has been slow so far.

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Consumers and business partners are demanding it, governments are mandating it and individual organizations are implementing projects focused on it, but environmental sustainability continues to be an elusive target for these and other entities. A recent U.N. Climate Change (UNCC) report is just one of many measures that countries, governments and organizations are tracking closely. To date, the consensus is that countries aren’t doing enough to restrict global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F).

That mandate was laid out in the Paris Agreement in 2015, when about 190 countries adopted the first accord asking all countries to join the fight against global warming. The agreement’s long-term objective was to ensure that global warming stays well below 2°C (3.6°F) and to “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C Celsius (2.7°F).

“To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century,” the UNCC said at the time of the Paris Agreement’s signing. “[This] is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.”

Fast-forward seven years to 2022 and the UNCC says that the world may now be on track for around 2.5°C of warming by the end of the century, according to CNBC. In its new report, the UNCC also says that countries’ pledges—as they stand now—may result in an emissions increase of over 10% by the year 2030 (compared to 2010’s levels).

“Last year’s analysis showed projected emissions would continue to increase beyond 2030,” CNBC reports. “However, this year’s analysis shows that while emissions are no longer increasing after 2030, they are still not demonstrating the rapid downward trend science says is necessary this decade.”

Survey Says: There’s More Work to be Done

As more governments, organizations and consumers become more environmentally aware and work to operate more sustainably, some are introducing new efforts to work collectively toward goals like the ones set forth in the Paris Agreement seven years ago. For example, Honeywell recently rolled out its new Environmental Sustainability Index. The index is the first quarterly indicator of key trends pertaining to global efforts in climate change mitigation and other sustainability initiatives.

Based on a quarterly survey of more than 600 business leaders directly involved in their organizations’ ES initiatives, the Sentiment Index measures their perceptions on how well their organizations have performed in achieving their goals over the past year and their expectations for the years ahead.

“In 2021, over sixty percent of our annual revenue was from solutions that contribute to ESG-oriented outcomes, and approximately 60% of our R&D spend was directed towards ESG-oriented innovation,” said Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk in a press release. “This gives us a unique position to help our customers and the world solve their biggest climate and environmental challenges, so that they can reach their targets by – or before – their committed deadlines.”

Current and Future Trends

Honeywell's new index tracks data on corporate climate priorities and approaches to environmental sustainability. The global study revealed that 90% of respondents are generally optimistic about overall success with prior 12-month goals across sustainability categories. Those categories include energy evolution and efficiency, emissions reduction, pollution prevention and circularity/recycling.

The study also found that:

  • Approximately 97% of organizations plan to increase current year budgets in at least one sustainability category.
  • Nearly three quarters of companies plan to increase current year budgets in all four categories.
  • Just over a third expect to increase budgets by over 50% in at least one category.
  • Improving energy evolution and efficiency was the top priority across all geographies, with 73% of respondents noting it as first or second priority.
  • The lowest prioritization was given to circularity/recycling, with only 28% of respondents noting it as first or second in importance.

The future outlook is a bit cloudier. According to Honeywell, just 67% of its survey respondents are optimistic about achieving goals for the coming year. And only 63% are optimistic about achieving their goals by 2030—an anchor deadline year for numerous commitments.

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.