Co-founder of cloud papera company leading the way towards ending deforestation by providing tree-free paper alternatives.
According to a report from Fortune Business Insights, the sustainability and green technology market is on track to strike $51 billion by 2029, with sustainable industries on track to reach a CAGR of 20.6% (compound annual growth). This is largely driven by our growing awareness of the environmental impact of corporate actions, our individual actions and the goods we buy.
With this lucrative projection, many companies are looking to the landscape in search of the next sustainable disruption. We saw this opportunity, for example, in the paper industry. When we studied the devastation that traditional paper producers have had, and still have, on our world’s forests, we knew there was a tremendous opportunity for improvement.
As the market continues to move towards durable goods and services, another trend is growing. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the goods they buy, so they are much more critical of companies that share misleading information about their sustainability efforts. In the future of sustainable markets, companies will be held accountable for their true environmental impact.
A rapid shift to environmental responsibility
Sustainable accountability is growing exponentially. A 2020 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that 73% of Americans believe in taxing companies based on their carbon emissions. A recent poll by Data for progress showed that 68% of voters believe transparency about climate impact is important to their purchasing decisions.
If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that shoppers in the United States are demanding a new level of environmental responsibility and are willing to use both their dollars and their vote to make it happen. With this demand for change, we will continue to see sustainability measures and innovations at the forefront of business operations, and new products and business models are expected to create a greener future for generations to come.
For example, we have made great strides in the beauty and fashion industry with the recent proposal from the New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act. In fact, if the groundbreaking law is passed, major brands (>$100 million in revenue) would have to disclose key parts of their supply chain and make concrete plans to reduce their impact on the environment.
5 industries causing disruption
The fast fashion and beauty industry may be on the cusp of reform, but there are plenty of other industries poised for sustained disruption.
1. Alternative meat/animal proteins
We are already seeing the start of disruption in this industry with the introduction of plant proteins such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. However, this is just the beginning for the meat industry. As an area of high environmental impact and a wide variety of consumer preferences, the possibilities here are endless.
With the amount of agricultural land shrinking, innovation in the protein industry is not only necessary, but also crucial. From vegetable proteins to insect proteins, this is an industry with great potential. Some companies are even making new alternatives to seafood and fish. If it’s meat, it’s ripe for innovation.
2. Baby Diaper Market
Single-use products generate a huge amount of waste, so they are a great opportunity for sustainable disruption. The baby diaper market is no exception. According to a 2020 report, more than 300,000 diapers are thrown away every 60 seconds. This generates millions of tons of waste every year.
While there is a slow movement around reusable diapers, the industry still has a long way to go. One challenge we face is the impact of the water and electricity consumption of modern washing and drying machines. Still, more innovations are possible, including the exploration of compostable or biodegradable diaper products.
3. Milk alternative industry
Almond and soy milks have taken their share of the milk market, but with livestock being one of agriculture’s most damaging industries, this is an area that will continue to grow. Shoppers are also becoming increasingly aware of the pitfalls of current milk alternatives, such as: the water consumption of almond trees. As in the meat market, there is no shortage of consumer preferences, so there is plenty of room for sustainable disruption.
4. Automotive Industry
Especially in America, where public transport is often lacking, the car industry has a lot of room for sustainable improvement. Electric cars are a step in the right direction, but from charging stations to emissions from power plants there are a significant number of challenges to win. More than likely, a real disruption to this industry will involve collaboration between auto and tech companies and government agencies.
5. Packing and Shipping:
The boom of e-commerce since 2020 means that the packaging and shipping industry has a heavier impact on the environment than ever. Sustainable disruption in this area is about to flourish at an exponential rate. As customers demand greater transparency and environmental responsibility in a company’s supply chains, the impact of packaging and shipping will become more apparent. Companies can think of environmentally friendly packaging materials, CO2 compensation or finding delivery alternatives.
As consumers in the United States – and around the world – become more aware of the environmental impact of businesses, they are changing their shopping habits. Shoppers have less faith in unsubstantiated label claims and unsourced statements, opting instead for truly sustainable solutions. Companies must be prepared for the consequences if they choose not to reduce their impact. Those who innovate and disrupt the industries that fall short will reap huge rewards.