The 2024 Trends Report from the ERM Sustainability Institute scans the business sustainability horizon across industries globally, to identify the most impactful sustainability trends and corporate responses for the coming year.

Based on extensive research and interviews with industry experts, the report highlights and interconnects the 10 most critical developments and recommended actions to help companies navigate 2024 and beyond.

Read a concise summary of the 2024 trends below. Access the full report here.

Trends include:

  1. Responding to climate change: Getting real about decarbonization

A brutally hot 2023 proved the warmest year on record. Realizing time is running short, governments, lenders, investors and other stakeholders are pushing harder for companies to decarbonize, a trend expected to accelerate after the relative success of COP28.

2. Valuing human capital: Farewell to back to normal 

Although many COVID-19-induced challenges have passed, labor relations refuse to return to normal. Worker engagement remains low, while workplace disruption remains high, forcing companies to revisit their human capital approach.

3. Integrating ESG: Cutting through the noise - Companies and investors are getting pulled in opposite directions on ESG. In the end, despite pushback, they will stay the course in 2024, convinced that integrating ESG and sustainability is smart business, not a matter of ideology.

4. Safeguarding natural systems: Nature gets a seat at the table -  Nature impact as a corporate consideration has come into its own. Regulation and voluntary standards have pushed protecting nature alongside climate priorities. Companies continue to get ready for this and will move from vague nature ambitions to concrete nature targets.

5. Streamlining sustainability disclosures: A new paradigm - The decisive global switch towards mandatory sustainability disclosures is an important influence on many other trends and forces companies to report in detail on climate, nature and social performance. In 2024, the impact of this shift will be fully felt.

6. Building sustainable and resilient supply chains: Striving for transparency and action - Caught between geopolitical turmoil and demanding stakeholders, supply chain management may be the world’s toughest job right now. Companies will increasingly put their supply chain under the microscope to gain a deep understanding of its risks and opportunities.

7. Enabling sustainable consumption and production: The end of waste? - Pushed by a cocktail of regulation, lawsuits, stakeholder pressure and resource scarcity, companies are reevaluating how they produce and package products. Circularity and sustainable sourcing appear set to break into mainstream corporate practice.

8. Applying technology to sustainability: Taking AI for a test drive With AI bursting onto the scene, companies have another digital technology to add to their toolbox for collecting and managing ESG data. The year ahead will test how useful AI is to bolster sustainable performance. Generous subsidies will help companies scale up other sustainability-related technologies.

9. Respecting fundamental rights: From checkbox to core strategy - A growing number of lawsuits, community protests and NGO campaigns make it clear that overlooking human rights and community engagement is still an ever-present business risk. Regulators also weigh in, pushing human rights to the top of the corporate agenda.

10. Navigating the evolving political landscape: Another volatile year ahead - In 2023, companies faced unrelenting geopolitical turmoil. This will continue, if not intensify, in the new year. So, it will take all-hands-on-deck again to manage potential disruptions.

Look out for our quarterly trends updates across 2024, providing essential reading for any business leader looking to understand the strategic implications of today’s sustainability context.