Four Sustainability Trends to Watch in 2019

What’s in store for 2019? WSP USA is highlighting four trends that we expect to see develop significantly throughout the year.

Below is a summary of four key sustainability trends to watch closely this year: circular economy, supply chain engagement, data-driven analytics and energy storage. We hope this guide helps organizations keep a pulse on what’s new and inspires them to focus on further exploring these and other sustainability trends affecting their organizations.

Circular Economy

From products to packaging, companies took major steps in 2018 to set the stage for the circular economy – a regenerative economic system aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of resources during production.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment  to help organizations reduce plastic waste by eliminating, innovating and circulating plastic. To align with this commitment, Unilever pledged  that 100 percent of its plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

To create a use for recycled plastics, Adidas has pledged to eliminate the use of “virgin” plastic in its products by 2024 and estimates that its 2019 apparel will contain 41 percent recycled polyester. In 2018, The North Face outerwear company also joined the circularity trend  by partnering with the Renewal Workshop  to sell refurbished gear, keeping it in use longer – similar to Patagonia’s Worn Wear effort launched several years ago. We expect to see more organizations innovating to bring circular economies to scale in 2019.

Supply Chain Engagement

As organizations continue to set Science-based Targets (SBTs) – which provide companies with a defined pathway to future-proof growth through identification of how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – they often find that their value chain (i.e., Scope 3 emissions) accounts for a substantial portion of total emissions. To truly address climate change, supply chain emissions must be addressed, in addition to emissions from company operations.

Many organizations already engage suppliers to collect relevant environmental performance data through programs such as CDP Supply Chain, the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) and EcoVadis.

This data collection is an important first step to addressing supply chain emissions. With the significant number of organizations committing to set SBTs in 2018, we expect to see growth in supplier engagement, from data collection towards direct engagement and goal-setting, to addressing value chain emissions in 2019.

Data-driven Analytics

Substantial quantities of data are needed to support achievement of SBTs, inform blockchain tracking mechanisms and drive meaningful measurement of sustainability performance.

In 2018, more than ever, organizations turned to supply chain data collection frameworks to gather data around supplier performance. We also saw organizations like Walmart and Siemens testing applications of blockchain, a distributed ledger technology that requires the management and movement of significant datasets, for sustainability.

As the sources and applications for large datasets grow, we expect to see a significant uptick in organizations using ever-improving analytical platforms to drive sustainability decision-making in 2019.

Energy Storage

Given the variability of renewable energy generation and strong peaks in energy demand, energy storage is a critical component of a sustainable energy future.

Since 2015, utility-scale storage capacity has increased significantly, and the dropping cost of battery storage makes it an increasingly viable option to help offset peak energy demand and improve storage of renewable and off-peak energy.

In addition to increasing energy storage capacity, the last few years have seen improvements in grid interconnectedness, which could support individuals and organizations using grid storage to reduce costs and improve the utilization of their storage assets. In 2019, we expect to see increasing options and use of energy storage.

WSP is committed to creating a world today that is Future Ready™—thinking beyond the conventional to help organizations prepare for the changes and challenges the world will face, and improving the overall quality of life through information, thoughtful solutions, and approaches that will have a positive impact on our environment.

We are looking forward to a 2019 filled with recyclable recycled plastics, value add value chains and increasingly integrated grids!

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