The world has increasingly become environmentally conscious after COVID-19, and the UK is not far behind. Social and political developments in the past few years have led to a boost in public awareness.
In simplest terms, sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The topic encompasses many areas, including environmental protection and economic development, and has dominated discourse for quite a while.
Nathan Gray, head of sustainability at Reconomy – a leading sustainable waste management company in the UK, has looked at Google Trends data, which reveals that the term “sustainability” reached a score of 100 in April 2022 in the UK. A value of 100 indicates the peak popularity of the term and reflects that the interest of the people searching for the term reached its highest point in the last five years in 2022.
The finding indicates UK citizens’ increasing awareness of the urgent need to protect the environment and support sustainable practices. In this article, the author explores the key factors influencing the rise of interest in sustainability, its implications, and what it means for the environment.
A sustainability-driven populace
The increased interest in sustainability is reflected in the actions of UK citizens. 75% of UK consumers say that reducing plastics is an essential sustainable action for them. This indicates that UK consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impacts their choices lead to and are willing to make changes to support sustainable practices.
The root of the rising concern for sustainability could also be traced to the increasingly environmentally conscious Gen Z.
- According to Forbes, 62% of Generation Z prefer to purchase from sustainable brands and are willing to pay more for ethically produced goods.
- A survey by Bupa reveals that 63 per cent of Gen Z and millennial respondents report feeling the burden of climate change, compared to only 37 percent of Gen X and 28 per cent of baby boomers.
- According to Pew, 32% of Gen Z respondents have participated in at least one significant environmental action over the past year.
- Gen Z even expects sustainability from the companies they work for, with 64% saying that it’s essential for their employers to act on environmental issues.
While it’s true that government legislation has significantly impacted environment-friendly practices, Gen Z’s role remains integral as its purchasing power continues to grow.
How businesses can respond and are responding
The rise in sustainability awareness can drive action and lead to fundamental changes beneficial to the environment, as evident in the corporate sector. Businesses are increasingly under pressure to become more sustainable, similar to how AI impacts business practices.
Nearly a third of the UK’s largest businesses have pledged to eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by aligning their operations with sustainable goals. These range from financial services to high-street retailers.
Two key measures businesses can take in this regard include the following:
Communicate a commitment to sustainability
Businesses should communicate the positive impact of their sustainable practices in terms of the environment and social responsibility through online content and social media campaigns.
For instance, in this infographic, AkzoNobel – a Dutch multinational company, brilliantly highlights its sustainability achievements in the UK through facts and figures:
Implement a sustainability policy
Many businesses have already adopted sustainability policies, but this is a good place to start for the ones who haven’t. A sustainability policy outlines a company’s commitment to sustainable practices by highlighting its approach toward sustainability, such as working with suppliers with sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
A beacon of light does not mark the end of the dark tunnel
Sustainability is taking centre stage. But, demanding and taking decisive environment-focused action requires individuals and the corporate sector to step up simultaneously.
The UK was the first major economy to create a legally binding target to bring greenhouse gas emissions to be net zero. However, decarbonizing all sectors of the UK economy to meet the net zero target by 2050 will require more vigorous measures. This commitment demonstrates the government’s recognition of the urgent need to tackle climate change and protect the environment. But, a culture of delay shouldn’t put UK’s environmental goals or its contribution to the global fight that aims to prevent average temperatures from rising to more than 1.5C by 2030.
The ban on single-use plastic items, which continue to be phased out, is yet another step in the right direction, but the war on climate change is far from over. We can see the beacon of light, but it does not mark the end of the dark tunnel of climate change.