Sustainability expands scope with pandemic, protests

The pandemic and other events of 2020 may have influenced business professionals’ attitudes toward sustainability, which means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

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Uncertainty is the only certain thing right now as the pet food industry continues to adjust in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. | (MCCAIG | iStock.com)
Uncertainty is the only certain thing right now as the pet food industry continues to adjust in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. | (MCCAIG | iStock.com)

Perhaps being part of a global disaster during the pandemic served as an analogy for other ongoing or looming disasters and social problems, such as climate change and systemic racism. Maybe being stuck at home gave people time to reflect on what really matters in life. Regardless, market researchers with Euromonitor International believe the pandemic and other events of 2020 influenced business professionals’ attitudes toward sustainability, which means meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do likewise.

Professionals from more than 80 countries employed in 18 different industries participated in two Euromonitor International surveys. Euromonitor International’s Sustainability and COVID-19 Surveys were conducted in June and July 2020, respectively. Analysts synthesized the results into the report, “Rethinking Sustainability: No Purpose, No Gain.” 

Sustainability expands to social issues

Beyond a simple increase in awareness of environmental problems, professionals’ idea of sustainability has expanded to include a wider range of factors, including social justice, which may have been influenced by other events of this year.

“Addressing racial inequality has become increasingly important, especially following the recent Black Lives Matter protests, and companies are working towards increasing the diversity of their workforce,” report co-author Maria Coronado Robles, senior sustainability consultant at Euromonitor International, said in a press release.

In last year’s Sustainability Survey, 87.3% of respondents associated sustainability with “reducing environmental impacts,” along with 63.6% who linked sustainability to “incorporating energy saving processes in production.” In 2020, environmental repercussions remained the top response. However, social purpose grew in importance. This year, approximately two-thirds of respondents defined sustainability as “supporting local communities”, up 15% from 2019. Business’ internal communities grew in importance too, as 51.4% respondents associated sustainability with supporting employees, and 48.7% connected the term with providing support to suppliers and business partners.

Ultimately, Euromonitor’s analysts concluded that people increasingly want to work for companies that provide a sense of purpose beyond acquisition and market dominance. Serving stockholders doesn’t inspire people as much as serving stakeholders, those people affected by the company, which can extend far beyond the supply chain. Likewise, professionals want to buy product from companies that balance purpose with profit.

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