Sustainability Trends 2021
Could the pandemic be a catalyst for a new wave of positive change for the environment? We look at the sustainability trends set to be high on the agenda in 2021.
Sustainability Trends 2021
Climate change back on the agenda
Joe Biden’s plans to tackle climate change are being described as the most ambitious of any mainstream US president, including a proposition to make US electricity production carbon-free by 2035. This renewed focus on environmental issues is something we’ll be seeing globally this year, with the COP26 summit in Glasgow set to be a big milestone. Taking place in November, COP26 will be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted, and will see world leaders coming together to report back on progress since the 2015 Paris Agreement – and hopefully make decisions on how to further cut carbon emissions.
It goes without saying that Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on people across the world – yet the environment has, in some ways, benefitted. Since the start of the pandemic there has been a significant reduction in air pollution: in northern India, for instance, the Himalayas were visible in the distance for the first time in a generation. Air pollution is a health issue in its own right, and the past year has shown us that cleaner air is possible. Researchers will be looking into how we can sustain these improvements beyond lockdowns, particularly with health so firmly in the spotlight.
Over the past few years we’ve seen numerous companies going carbon-neutral – but this year will give rise to something even better: the climate-positive movement. This means brands proactively implementing measures that have a positive effect on the environment, rather than just limiting their negative impact. This could be an act as simple as planting a tree for every purchase – or it could be something more complex, like London-based research studio Post Carbon Lab, which is looking into using algae in our clothes that can photosynthesise as you wear them. An increasing number of businesses are adopting regenerative farming practices too, which involves growing a diverse range of crops to help put nutrients back into the soil. Even The Olympics is getting involved, recently announcing a goal to make the games climate-positive from 2030 onwards.
With one million species under threat of extinction, biodiversity will continue to be a major talking point this year. The UN Biodiversity Summit is due to take place in China this May, and big companies are taking steps in the right direction. Kering – which owns brands such as Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent – revealed its biodiversity strategy last summer, announcing it hopes to have a net positive impact on biodiversity in 2021. It’s likely we’ll see others following suit.
Global sales of electric cars rose by 43 per cent last year – despite overall car sales dropping by a fifth. This is partly due to a government-backed bid to end sales of fossil fuel-powered cars, but buyers are being won over by better technology as well as the environmental impacts. And while electric cars are typically an expensive option, more affordable varieties are slowly appearing on the market – meaning we’ll be seeing them on the roads more and more in 2021.
The move against throwaway fashion will contain to gain momentum in 2021 with more and more shoppers choosing pre-loved stores like Cudoni and Vestiaire Collective over the high street. Luxury brands aren’t resting on their laurels either: Farfetch’s recently launched luxury handbag resale service is proving increasingly popular, and Gucci announced a partnership with luxury consignment store The Real Real at the end of last year.
Root to stem, nose-to-tail dining will be continue to be a big sustainability trend in 2021. “We’re seeing a huge rise in packaged products that use neglected and underused parts of an ingredient as a path to reducing food waste,” says Whole Foods. “Upcycled foods, made from ingredients that would have otherwise been food waste, help to maximise the energy used to produce, transport and prepare that ingredient. Dig in, do good.”
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