The Top 3 Sustainability Topics to Watch For in 2024
December 11, 2023 •Bridgid Lutz
As we come to the end of 2023, I find myself reflecting not only on the progress and accomplishments in the world of sustainability this past year, but also thinking about what is coming in 2024. Now, I am certainly not gifted with any kind of foresight, but there are a few things that rise to the surface as topics to which we should pay attention. So, (just to add to the many “top” items lists we see published this time of year) here is my list of the Top 3 Sustainability Topics to Watch For in 2024.
Increased reporting requirements
In October, California enacted two laws that will require many large U.S. companies to begin making climate-related disclosures in 2026. We’re also waiting for the final SEC climate-related disclosure rules to drop (now expected in 2024) which will apply to all publicly traded companies and require detailed reporting on climate-related risks, emissions, and targets or transition plans. Add these to the existing requirements in the EU and the picture is very clear: mandatory climate-related reporting is coming and will impact many of us.
What we’re seeing now is very reflective of the creation of financial reporting requirements that are now so embedded in how we communicate our business results. To make informed investment decisions, consumers need companies to provide comparable, consistent information. Although we’re still working out the kinks with how to report and interpret sustainability numbers, I expect the result to be much the same: better information for consumers and higher accountability for businesses.
All things EV
Ok, this one seems obvious. We all hear a lot about EV’s. They were a hot topic during the auto workers’ strike, commercials for them are everywhere, and false information about them is abundant. Heck, I’ve done my fair share of blogging and hosting internal lunch-and-learns on the topic. Unsurprisingly, EV’s are not going away. But while they’re still considered by popular culture to be “new” technology, I predict that in 2024 we’ll see a shift as EVs take a more commonplace role in the mainstream.
The infrastructure bill that passed at the end of 2021 allotted $7.5 billion to create a nationwide network of EV charging stations. The rollout of this funding has been slow, but 2024 should see a big boost in the number of completed projects. This is also happening in conjunction with the opening of the North American Charging Standard (NACS), also known as the Tesla standard. For Tesla to qualify for the infrastructure bill funding, they needed to make their network available to non-Tesla vehicles. The result is that most major auto manufacturers will equip their vehicles with the NACS charge port or provide a NACS adapter as early as 2024. So, with a more universal charging standard in place, we can expect to see an expanded charging network that will be more available to both Tesla and non-Tesla EV drivers. Layer on the (up to) $7,500 in incentives that the infrastructure bill provides for purchasing an EV, and it is clear that the EV landscape is ready to expand exponentially.
I’m a proud member of Gen X, so I grew up among calls to save the rain forest, plant more trees, and stop the oil spills. We wanted to save specific species of flora and fauna and fix the hole in the ozone layer. Somewhere along the way, though, our focus got much broader. This isn’t a bad thing: we now have carbon footprinting and sustainability protocols to follow. However, we may have lost sight of the importance of planting trees and restoring habitats and ecosystems.
Recently, a UN-supported study re-emphasized this and stated that species of plants and animals across the globe are disappearing at accelerating and unprecedented rates. Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land states that we must preserve biodiversity to ensure our own survival. For me, this is a stark reminder that getting back to my roots is important. I spent some early days of my career doing habitat restoration and advocating for the preservation of local ecosystems. This work may have fallen by the wayside, but it matters a great deal and has huge impacts. Biodiversity is directly related to healthy ecosystems and a healthy planet. Without a healthy planet, we as a species do not survive. So, I predict that in 2024, my Gex X fellows will get back to basics and restart the rallying cry for protecting biodiversity.
As we navigate the unfolding landscape of sustainability in 2024, these three themes will call for our attention and concerted efforts. Whether it be through enhanced reporting, the proliferation of EVs, or a renewed focus on biodiversity, the upcoming year holds promise for meaningful strides toward a more sustainable future. Let's embark on this journey together, mindful of the pivotal role each of us plays in shaping the world we leave for future generations. Cheers to a sustainable and impactful 2024!