Five Sustainability and Energy Trends to Watch in 2017

What’s in store for 2017? We’ve compiled five trends that will be on the move (some quite literally) in the coming year. We hope this list inspires you to explore developing sustainability trends and helps keep a pulse on happenings in this space.

Advancing greenhouse gas (GHG) goal setting to establish Science-Based Targets (SBTs)
As companies seek to set increasingly ambitious GHG emission reduction targets, attention is turning to the question of how we set targets that align with the level of reductions required to limit global temperature increases and mitigate the most drastic effects of climate change. The concept of setting SBTs has been gaining traction, particularly in the past 12 months. An SBT is a GHG emissions reduction target that is aligned with emissions reductions required to keep the increase in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial temperatures. To date 202 companies have committed to set an SBT in the next two years; almost half of those companies registered within the last year. Thirty companies have already successfully set SBTs. Another 100 are expected to set an SBT before the end of 2017, with the remaining 72 commitments to be fulfilled shortly thereafter.

Renewable energy (RE) goals impacting procurement options
Companies around the world are responding to investor and NGO pressure to assess and address climate impacts to their business. Membership in the RE100, which includes organizations committed to procuring 100% renewable electricity for their operations, has grown from 16 members in early 2015 to 83 at the end of 2016, recently expanding beyond Europe and the U.S. into China and India. Parallel top sustainability trends in 2017to the trend of 100% renewable energy commitments, companies are seeking to increase both the quantity and size of investments in renewable energy. Organizations are seeking ways to procure large amounts of renewable energy and want to ensure that their investments are catalyzing growth of the RE industry. Expect an upward trend in engagement, aggressive commitments and procurement of renewable energy to continue and expand in 2017.

Increased expectations for the disclosure of risks associated with the physical impacts of climate change
Changing climate norms and the growing number, intensity and cost of severe climate-related weather events have led to growing concern about the potential risks associated with the physical impacts of climate change. Key stakeholders, including customers, shareholders and NGOs, have an increasing expectation of disclosure of these risks, particularly from public companies. This expectation has grown, particularly for public companies with a global portfolio, due to several recent developments, most prominent among them the establishment and action of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Recent guidance published by TCFD suggests that companies should conduct sensitivity analyses on a range of climate impacts to demonstrate resilience across multiple scenarios. TCFD has stated that all financial and non-financial organizations with public debt or equity should implement its recommendations. Most recently, CDP has expressed its intent to incorporate TCFD recommendations into its disclosure scoring system.

 Cloud computing reducing carbon footprints
The cloud offers greater efficiencies, convenience and reliability than conventional computing options. These are all-important in a carbon-constrained future impacted by climate change. Hyper-scale, virtualized data centers can the same workload as on-premise physical servers while consuming only a fraction of the energy. Cloud-based services offer scalable and adaptable resources for businesses of various sizes to simplify IT development and roll out. Cloud-based services also offer redundancy and reliability that can keep businesses running through extreme weather events. As the larger players like Microsoft, Amazon and Google move towards cloud computing, these benefits will be realized.

Driverless electric cars on the road
Trends in connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies are closely paralleling trends towards greater vehicle electrification and it’s not purely coincidence. As battery costs decline and electric vehicle (EV) ranges increase, electrification becomes vital to reducing operating costs for the emerging model of CAV mobility-as-a-service (think on-demand, driverless taxis). We see both the major automotive companies and smaller manufacturers, such as automated shuttle companies, betting big on EVs. While many questions loom regarding how CAV technology will affect travel behavior and whether trips and miles traveled will increase with the proliferation of CAV, one thing seems clear — electric vehicles will play an increasing role in the vehicle fleets of tomorrow.

Article contributors include area experts Scott Shogan, Katrina Prutzman, Julie Sinistore, Kealy Herman and Derek Fehrer.


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