2023: A Strange, Tumultuous Year in Sustainability

The year 2023 contained several important sustainability narratives and trends. The author outlines three key ones — the anti-ESG movement, China’s acceleration of a clean economy, and the rise of reporting regulations — and then suggests a series countervailing forces pushing against each. He also outlines several smaller stories that leaders need on their radar as well.

This was a rough year. The world’s biggest challenges generally got worse, or at least more complicated. Our biggest existential threat, climate change, is no longer a scientific model of the future; it’s now a relentless daily challenge. This year, yet again, heat records were shattered, wildfires and dangerous air spread over unprecedented areas, and flooding and storms destroyed thousands of lives. Even the (seemingly) world’s most powerful woman, Taylor Swift, had to postpone a concert in Brazil because of the heat. Scientists tell us that we’ve pushed the planet beyond its ability to support us in critical areas such as availability of water, biodiversity, and, of course, carbon emissions.


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