Sustainability Trends For 2022 (Sunseap)
February 3, 2022
The increasing threat of climate change, coupled with the global COVID-19 pandemic, have seen the sustainability and clean energy landscape quickly evolving. The need for systemic change and radical rethinking of how organisations and industries work have led to bold ideas being put into action. Here's a look at the post-pandemic changes that will shape the industry through 2022 and beyond.
Sustainable Products Will Become the NormMore than any other group, Gen Z is aware of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and the responsibility they must try and fix these issues. Research suggests that more than half of these young adults think a company's environmental and social efforts play an important role in considering whether to purchase a service or a product - opting for sustainable fashion, ethically sourced raw materials, upcycling and recycling furniture, plant-based foods, and cruelty-free beauty, just to name a few.
As an example of sustainability's becoming a growing priority in fashion, the 2021 conscious fashion report from global fashion shopping platform Lyst includes these insights:
• Page views for biodegradable sneakers increased 348% year-over-year
• 178% jump in page views for the term "vegan leather"
• 117% increase in demand for upcycled and recycled items
• 146% bump in searches for brands that offer repair services for their products
If reports from previous years are any indication, these year's insights will translate into trends which will soon be on a runway or in stores soon.
Transitioning to a Zero Waste, Circular Economy
The detrimental impact of the "take, make, waste" system has made it clear that generating less waste through more efficient resource management is crucial to sustainability. As more industries start to learn about how they can incorporate the model of production and consumption that involves reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products, the more we're seeing the transition to a circular economy taking shape.
In Los Angeles, California, T'HO Coffee is an example of such a business, and they market themselves as a No Waste Café. The commitment to sustainability filters through - no pun intended - every aspect of the cafe's operations.
It starts with ethically sourced organic coffee beans to 100% compostable coffee bags, reusable coffee tins, using only milk alternatives to avoid the high carbon emissions associated with dairy farming. Take-away orders are served in jars and customers can collect their refundable deposit when these jars are returned. Orders from the café’s e-commerce portal are shipped in used boxes (eg. Amazon).
Even used coffee grounds from the café go into the production of personal care items (body butters) or sustainable cosmetic products such as eyebrow serums.
Though still in its early stages, the circular economy trend is developing fast and inspiring businesses and environmentalists alike. While there might be institutional drivers and barriers for the circular economy in different regions worldwide, moving towards this zero-waste, low-carbon goal is a net gain.
ESG investments take centre stageEnvironmental, Social and Governance (ESG) are interconnected factors crucial for the well-being of individuals and societies. Beyond sustainability elements (eg. carbon emissions), ESG also spans corporate governance and health and safety policies. Companies with high ESG performance have proven to have lower risks, higher returns, and are more resilient in times of crisis, making it an increasingly important metric for capital markets.
A growing commitment to sustainability is rapidly driving a reallocation of capital among asset owners and investors. The global pandemic also seems to have propelled ESG investments into a whole new bracket - ESG funds received US$5.1 billion of investment in 2020 alone.
The upside is that this rising focus on ESG is not only compelling businesses to be more open about their environmental impact, but it also answers the age-old question: can one make money while simultaneously making the world a better place? The answer is a resounding YES.
Data's Will Play a Bigger Role
Data collection has always been an intrinsic facet of sustainability. Having historical and real-time data to compare and review can provide insights and this, in turn, can inform decisions to fine-tune processes or formulate new initiatives.
As the scope of sustainability expands to include more streams of information, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will play an even bigger role in processing incoming data points in real time to derive at useful and comprehensive insights. AI's applications in the renewables sector include power consumption forecasting and predictive maintenance of renewable energy sources. The capacity of analytics to enhance decision-making is appealing to many different types of organizations, beyond businesses. Big data has a diverse variety of applications, too, such as benchmarking ESG metrics and standardizing carbon metrics.
Any way you look at it, data will continue to be the currency which will bring forth new insights.
Energy Storage Systems (ESS) Enters the Mainstream ConversationThe energy sector has played a vital role at this time of crisis, not least in enabling the provision of digital services. It has enabled hospitals to provide care, food to be delivered, and allowed millions of people to work remotely and be home-schooled. As the world's economies recover, renewable energy integration is centre stage, and there is also a growing acceptance of energy storage as a mainstream power technology.
Currently, utility-scale stationary batteries dominate global energy storage but by 2030, small-scale battery storage is expected to significantly increase. Given the popularity and prevalence of public housing in our part of the world, 'small-scale' is a relative term when you compare it to mature clean energy markets. That said, Asia is on track to become the world Leader in energy storage with Samsung SDI and LG Chem regarded as market leaders in ESS / li-ion battery manufacturing, with China's BYD coming in close behind.
In 2020, Sunseap led a consortium to develop and deploy the first ever utility-scale 2.4MWh Energy Storage System (ESS) at a substation Woodlands, and distributed ESS at five HDB blocks in Punggol.
In 2021, Sunseap signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)with the municipal government of Indonesia's Batam Island to develop a 2.2GWp floating photovoltaic (FPV) system, which will be the world's largest to-date. To support this clean energy generator, this project will also include an ESS with a record storage capacity of 4,000MWh. The energy generated and stored at this Batam-based hyperscale project will supply non-intermittent solar energy 24 hours, 7 days a week. A portion of this green energy will be apportioned for use in Batam, while the remaining volume will potentially be exported for Singapore's energy needs.
It will be interesting to see which of these trends will become another new aspect of our sustainability road map.