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Trends and Stories to Watch in 2020

Welcome to SustainAbility’s annual trends report, in which we explore global sustainability issues and trends that will shape the business agenda in 2020.

SustainAbility has published annual trends forecasts for more than a decade but this is our first set of trends as an ERM Group company. In the last decade, the sustainable business agenda has advanced in many ways but one of the most remarkable shifts has been the growing focus on solutions — not only understanding what issues matter and why but also how the private sector can accelerate change. This year, our report not only looks at the issues and challenges but also highlights some of the most effective emerging solutions.

We are at the start of the “decade of action,” and with just ten years to cut emissions it is no surprise to see the environment dominate this year — from climate and biodiversity to plastics and the circular economy. Climate has long been featured in SustainAbility’s Trends — the emphasis is now on how business is responding to the new reality of a changed climate.

The trends demonstrate the need for companies to identify how these issues interact and the connections between them: the role that biodiversity, especially nurturing soil and forest health, plays in reducing carbon emissions; conservation that increases climate resilience; how the circular economy — keeping materials in use — can reduce emissions and plastic pollution; and the collaboration that is needed to ensure that advances in digital technology yield positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

As we move into the next decade we hope to see bolder corporate announcements that are rooted in science and address the legacy of a company’s operations. Such commitments set an expectation for other companies to follow. We have ten years to transform the world — we need every company accelerating and amplifying their positive impact.

Global Trend

Climate Mitigation

Ten years to halve emissions

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Global Trend

A Changed Climate

The new normal

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Global Trend

Circular Solutions

Building the infrastructure of the future

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Global Trend


Translating awareness into solutions

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Global Trend

Sustainable Consumption

From aspiration to behavior change

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Global Trend

Supply Chain

Technology improving transparency

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Global Trend

Protecting Biodiversity

Defining the role of business

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Global Trend

Tech for the SDGs

New innovation helping people and the planet

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Global Trend

Human Capital

Investing in employee wellbeing

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Global Trend

Sustainable Finance

Moving into the mainstream

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Insight 2020: The SustainAbility Annual Trends Review

Watch our global webinar in which we and a panel of experts discussed the sustainability trends that will shape the economic, political, social and business agendas in 2020.

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Download the full SustainAbility 2020 Trends Report.


Aiste Brackley
Bron York
Nicola Ledsham


  • Charles Allison

    Partner, Energy & Climate Change Services, ERM
  • Frances Buckingham

    Associate Editor, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Tristanne Davis

    Senior Manager, The Sustainable Packaging Coalition at GreenBlue
  • Denise Delaney

    Senior Director, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Geena Giovannetti

    Administrative Assistant, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Kees Gootjes

    Senior Consultant Europe Middle East & Africa, ERM
  • Juana Hatfield

    Consulting Director, ERM South Africa
  • James Hubbard

    Senior Consultant, ERM
  • Mark Lee

    Executive Director, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Thapelo Letete

    Technical Director, ERM South Africa
  • Doug MacNair

    Technical Director, ERM
  • Margo Mosher

    Senior Director, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Caitlin Martin

    Analyst, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Braulio Pikman

    Technical Director, Latin America, ERM 
  • Emily Reich

    Communications Manager, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company
  • Douglas Sabo

    Global Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, Visa Inc.
  • Kathleen Sellers

    Technical Director, ERM
  • Annie Snyman

    Partner, ERM South Africa
  • Dominic Vergine

    Head of Sustainability, Arm
  • Mike Wallace

    Partner, BrownFlynn, an ERM Group company. North American Strategic Director, Capitals Coalition
  • Christina Wong

    Director, SustainAbility, an ERM Group Company