The State of Green Business: the trends of 2023

In economic terms, climate change is the result of a massive externality: an unpriced element in the production, consumption and transportation of goods and services. Fossil fuels are a primary ingredient in the eye-popping economic growth of the past two centuries, but the cost of burning them wasn’t originally factored into the equation. Increasingly, that’s changing.

In the annual edition of the GreenBiz Group’s “State of Green Business” report editors and analysts have selected 10 key trends worth watching in 2023, reflecting a broad spectrum of environmental and sustainability topics, including transportation, carbon removal, the circular economy, climate tech, sustainable food systems, renewable energy, the state of biodiversity, green jobs and careers, and more.

“Stay the course” may be the key message coming out of the confounding year that was 2022. For all that those 12 months threw at us – a still-raging pandemic, a global economic downturn, major supply-chain chokepoints, political upheavals, climate exacerbated natural disasters and a global energy crisis spurred by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine – there’s no turning back for sustainability professionals.


Investors and the private sector are paying more and more attention to the topic of biodiversity, but only a small share of companies globally have set targets to protect biodiversity or address deforestation, according to research by S&P Global Sustainable1. 

Most companies with biodiversity targets aim to reach their goals by 2030, but only a small share of companies have committed to preserving biodiversity or addressing deforestation across their supply chains, where most of the damage is being done.

Addressing the biodiversity and climate crises in tandem is also increasingly urgent. One key example of how biodiversity and climate change are intertwined is the low-carbon transition, which will require a huge expansion in the supply of elements like lithium and copper to support new infrastructure.

Mining exploration around the world is picking up to meet this need, but research by S&P Global Sustainable1 has found that existing mines and exploration sites overlap with some of the world’s most important areas for biodiversity. Of the 1,276 mining sites that intersect with Key Biodiversity Areas, 29% of these sites are for extracting minerals needed for the low-carbon energy transition. Enabling the energy transition while managing the potential negative impacts on biodiversity is a complex challenge.

The State of Green Jobs and Careers

Policy change and infrastructure development are pillars of the green economy transition. For example, titles related to environment, health and safety (EHS) dominate the fastest-growing Green titles. As all levels of government adopt new environmental regulations, employers need people on staff to ensure compliance with those regulations.

Energy Manager rounds out the fastest-growing Green titles as utilities, large corporations, and startups engage in increasing renewable energy production, energy storage and energy efficiency across their operations.

Multiple titles on the Greening list are related to infrastructure, construction and buildings. These aren’t new types of jobs, but rather jobs that need to be done in a different, greener way.

Let’s look at how the skills have evolved over time for Sustainability Manager, one of the fastest-growing Green titles. Here are two notable ways the job has changed in terms of skills:

• Data analysis. New tools, often digital ones, mean that sustainability professionals have more data than ever with which to analyze their company’s performance and track key metrics

• Business skills. Sustainability managers are cross-functional actors working across departments to convince leaders to change their operations and adopt new practices. This manifests itself in the increased importance of public speaking to deliver compelling presentations and strategy.

Micromobility and Transit Pave the Way to Net Zero

The road to decarbonizing transport is looking more promising. Shifting transportation away from cars toward public transport and micromobility options across the world’s cities must roughly double in this decade to align with the Paris Agreement. And between 40 to 80 percent of global miles traveled in cities must be from walking, cycling or public transit, according to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

The transition won’t be easy. Cities will need to prioritize shifting people away from personal vehicles; build new bike lanes; and expand, electrify and improve public transit to serve more people and create interconnected systems between modes of transportation.

To maximize emissions reductions, it will be critical for cities to use micromobility and minimobility as replacements for driving, not public transit and walking. In good news, several companies including Lyft and Uber-backed Lime note that 36 percent and 27 percent of users, respectively, are mode shifting from cars to shared e-bikes or scooters.

Carbon Disclosure Becomes Mandatory

With this transition to a mandatory disclosure world, a few developments are certain to follow. One expected development is an increase of companies hiring professionals and seeking technologies in support of what’s called MRV — for measuring, reporting and verification — to keep up with the demand by regulators, investors and customers for accurate carbon disclosure data. 

The landscape can be confusing, and it will affect companies in different ways. Overall, there will be stricter standardization aimed at decreasing the mispricing of climate risk by investors and ensuring data that companies provide is comparable and “decision-useful.”

Scope 3 emissions — those from supply chains and customer use — are an infamously difficult topic within disclosure because they require gathering accurate data from suppliers and suppliers’ suppliers, reaching all the way back to raw material extraction. Prepare to see an increase in regulations and disclosure expectations around this, too, in the near future.

In addition, learn more about how: 

  • Companies Learn to Measure the Unmeasurable
  • Sustainability Gets Schooled at Work
  • Alternative Protein Beefs Up for the Mainstream
  • Water Tech Catches a Wave
  • Business Model Innovation Accelerates Circularity

..and more, from the full report here.

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