Why true sustainability must be more than ‘a race to Net Zero’

By PwC

Organisations across every industry are under pressure to ensure operations, supply chains and business models are more sustainable.

But achieving sustainability requires profound changes.

It also means confronting harsh truths and challenging what we understand by sustainability. It is not just a race to Net Zero carbon emissions, but delivering meaningful change that addresses the climate emergency, nature loss and inequality, in a way that is affordable, scalable and enduring.

Achieving this will take a series of pragmatic – and often difficult – steps to transform. You need to make the right decisions and persevere to make sustainability happen, maximising the productivity and profitability needed to protect both your business and your investment in sustainability along the way.

What is driving change?

The looming climate crisis is everybody’s responsibility and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how rapid change is possible when inaction isn’t an option. And pressure to lower carbon emissions, reduce waste, improve social responsibility and contribute to a circular economy is being applied from many directions.

Consumers are often portrayed as leading the call for sustainability. They may increasingly vote with their feet, or with their wallets, where a choice between similar offers differs only on environmental or ethical grounds, but such choices are generally an outcome of more complex, more compelling pressures applied elsewhere.

“Change is not being driven by consumers to the degree many assume,” says Lisa Hooker, Leader of Industry for Consumer Markets at PwC UK. “Consumers are an important part of the change that needs to happen, but they are not leading the change. Their decisions may reinforce the need for change and may help build momentum. Their responses to specific issues, such as plastic waste may shape the agenda. But the real, long-term change is being driven by growing pressure from investors, governments, employees and the media holding organisations to account.”

While government regulations establish bare minimums for sustainability, many organisations aim even higher, in response to pressure from shareholders, banks, big corporate investors and employees.

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