7 trends set to shape corporate sustainability in 2024

Jan 04, 2024

From the landmark deal struck at COP28 to the green light given for new global reporting requirements and the steady emergence of a new ‘green-collar’ workforce, 2023 proved a big year for corporate sustainability. But with little sign of any slowdown, what does 2024 have on the horizon?

There’ll be more and more pressure to recruit green talent
The race to recruit skilled sustainability professionals is only set to get tougher in 2024, with a forecast 50% spike in vacancies over the next year, according to some estimates, and growing pressure on Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) to set their organizations up with the brightest talent. This will include the need to create and fill brand new ‘green’ roles in order to meet rising demands, with carbon accountants, sustainable procurement managers and environmental compliance officers among those functions fast becoming business critical. Even traditional roles, such as HR and marketing, are being redefined with a green edge as sustainability is embedded into every element of an organization’s operations. So rapid is this change set to be that, by 2050, there’ll be an additional 300 million ‘green collar’ jobs globally as a result,according to Deloitte.

Data and analytics will become the most sought-after skill
Preparations to comply with new global reporting requirements will ramp up in 2024, as first the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) takes effect from January 1, followed by the USA’s SEC climate-related disclosures, expected in April. And the new responsibilities these frameworks places on organizations to collect, interpret and share their climate-related data will propel those skilled at such tasks to the front of the pack when it comes to recruitment. For CSOs in particular, the ability to craft and implement brand new reporting strategies will become a core function, with some elements – such as new requirements to report on Scope 3 carbon emissions –necessitating a more technical grasp of supply chains.

Empowered employees will become a key differentiator
Employee-led initiatives are set to shape the next wave of corporate sustainability in 2024. According to LinkedIn, ‘climate activism’ will soon become entrenched in the workplace, with any lingering stigma that may surround eco-conscious workers dispelled. Internal grassroots initiatives to reduce environmental impact and make a more positive impact will therefore increasingly feed into higher level corporate strategies, and those leadership teams that can leverage these empowered employees are set to reap the biggest rewards. This includes ensuring that ESG values are front and centre of hiring strategies, with 70% of employees drawn to those organizations with a solid sustainability program.

Innovation will become a more integral part of a CSOs role
Getting ready for an increasingly rigorous regulatory landscape has dominated the day-to-day duties for many CSOs in recent years. But as those measures come into force, they should find themselves with greater bandwidth to switch focus from overseeing compliance to true innovation, i.e., creating new ‘green’ solutions, products and services from scratch. It’s an era of ‘entrepreneurial sustainability’ that will see the bar raised on what’s considered a sustainable company, with the level playing field created by regulation on areas such as carbon reduction necessitatingsustainability leaders to think bigger and better if they want to set themselves apart from the competition.

CEOs will be expected to weigh in
As sustainability becomes more and more embedded across companies, there’ll be less excuses for CEOs to sit quietly by and leave communications on the big issues purely to CSOs. In fact, according to PR firm Edelman, 75% of professionals expect CEOs to weigh in on issues such as climate change, inequality and discrimination of minorities over the next year. Significantly, they expect CEOs to speak out regardless of how closely linked these issues are to the company’s core business. That means it will no longer be enough to focus on satisfying investor concerns or to view ESG through a lens of mitigating risk, CEOs will now be expected to collaborate closely with their CSOs to engage publicly on macro trends and apply pressure to bring about wider change.

The climate fintech sector will boom
If there’s one emerging segment within ESG that looks set to explode in the coming year, it’s likely to be climate fintech. Start-ups in the field raised nearly $3bn in capital in 2022 and – while the wider fintech sector felt the economic pinch in 2023 – climate-focused businesses continued to enjoy steady growth as investors spotted the long-term potential in innovation at the intersection of climate, finance and digital technology. Solutions being developed include eco-friendly investment opportunities, such as green bonds and responsible investment funds, as well as specialised accounting software. Tech is also being used to overcome some of the biggest climate finance challenges by connecting financial institutions, such as banks, with tech providers, regulators and end consumers. For those with a financial or tech background it’s set to become a rich source of roles in 2024.

Climate litigation will become a serious risk
With more regulation comes greater risk of litigation, a fact that will need to be on the radars of all CSOs going into 2024. In fact, climate-related court cases have more than doubled since 2017, with 2,000+ filed in 65 jurisdictions, more than 1,500 of which originated in the United States. And though the majority of these were levelled at governments for failing to uphold the ‘climate rights’ of citizens, there are an increasing number targeting corporations too. Misleading use of carbon credits, inaccurate disclosures and misleading advertising are all areas of vulnerability that leadership teams need to be keeping a close eye on.


Shannon Houde is an ICF-certified coach with over 20 years as a recruiter and trusted advisor to evolving change leaders from Managers to CSOs. She has mentored and trained 1000+ change leaders over 3000 hours in ESG and corporate sustainability and is the author of Good Work: How to Build a Career That Makes a Difference in the World. Apply for a trial coaching session here!


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