What can we expect from 2023?

In this month’s newsletter, I highlight some of the more prominent sustainability issues that I think we will hear more about in 2023, through the lens of three presentations I have given recently.

For those interested in the latest on the EU – US trade discussions relating to sustainable investments I would recommend this piece (in Swedish but an older version is available in English) from Anna Stellinger from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. And if you are interested in what happened in Davos, have a look at this summary.

During 2023 I think we will see more companies that will openly declare their ambition to balance profit and value creation for people and planet. We will also see more actors – both public and private – that share their challenges and lessons learned.

  1. In early January I gave a presentation on the 2022 sustainability achievements at a company I have worked with for a few years, a pharmaceutical company called Chiesi Pharma. It’s a successful company, both in terms of profits and in terms of the value it creates for its different stakeholders. The success can be measured by an increased score on the company’s B-Corp certification, but what impresses me the most, is that Chiesi Nordic is also wiling to disclose and learn from the goals that it has not met. And the company is willing to spend time and energy – showing leadership – on influencing others in its ecosystem.

    In 2023, a fair amount of the sustainability agenda among companies will come from employees who wish their employers to address material risks when reducing their negative footprint and improving their positive contributions on people and planet.
  2. Mid-January I gave a presentation for a MedTech company which was more of an introduction to how a company can gain value by becoming more sustainable. As usual, I started with the challenges we have ahead, but also with some of the improvements we have seen during the last decades (partly thanks to fossil-fuel doped growth). I then spent some time on my favourite topic, the importance of a materiality analysis; of doing “the right things”. From the discussion that followed, I took with me the keen interest from all levels of the company, in sustainability and on focusing on what is most important. That energy!

    I do believe that in 2023, regulation and incentives from the EU will be main drivers for the transition towards more sustainable business practices, to some extent also beyond the borders of the EU.

  3. Late January I made a presentation at a Round Table at the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria. The Round Table was about challenges and opportunities with regard to a “Just Green Transition”, and more specifically how Sweden and climate smart products developed by Swedish companies, can contribute to a greener and more just future. During the Round Table we spent some time talking about the development in Europe regarding increased regulation around sustainability disclosures (e.g. the Taxonomy, CSRD and the coming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive). Not everyone was convinced about the greatness of disclosure, and I personally agree that regulation on disclosure will not be enough.

And here are some other sustainability issues that I will keep an eye on during 2023…

-How companies and governments will operationalise the conclusions from COP 15 on biodiversity

-How ESG-disclosure standards will evolve, both through voluntary agreements and through regulations to curb green-washing

-Access to clean and affordable energy (and I think it’s time to look beyond Europe)

-The evolution of new business models and innovation where sustainability is an integrated part of the business model (often, but not only, circular models where the “waste” of one process, is the “food” of another. Keep your eyes on e.g. the textile industry!)

-Social sustainability. This will partly be driven by regulations on human rights due diligence and minimum safeguards (from the Taxonomy), but I also think that companies who previously have donated money a little a little “erratic”, will get more professional and to a larger extent look for shared value.

-Carbon taxation. Who will joint the ride?

-Investments. Sustainable investments are likely to continue to grow in 2023. The most interesting development, however, will be how the American and European public spending and investment race will evolve. Will we see European companies with climate smart products moving to or setting up new businesses in the US?

And finally, I wish (and think) that we will see more companies and countries sharing technologies and experiences for the betterment of all of us. A little like when Volvo, in the 1950’s, decided not to patent the three-point seatbelt. This will also include, I think, a slightly new take on aid, trade and sustainability – interestingly enough probably fairly aligned with the general approach of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development!


Stay tuned & stay safe!

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