A year ago, Connected World predicted that 2020 would kick off a decade focused on enterprise sustainability. While this past year has proved unpredictable, to put it lightly, sustainability will still be a key trend permeating many discussions in the IoT (Internet of Things) realm in 2021 and beyond. Sustainability is increasingly becoming a business imperative—one companies can’t afford to overlook as they build their post-COVID business strategies. As a result, as more companies look to adopt advanced systems and services that improve sustainability and efficiency, investment in the “green tech” and sustainability market is predicted to increase substantially in the next decade.

Plunkett Research says improvements in sustainability and efficiency could include things like reducing waste, spoilage, and shrinkage; improving energy efficiency and energy conservation; creating biodegradable products and systems that are energy self-sustaining; reducing carbon emissions, toxic waste, and toxic gas emissions; enhancing water conservation and water quality; and promoting the reuse and recycling of materials. By adopting technologies that will help them achieve these goals, companies will boost market revenues by billions. Data from Brandessence Research suggests the green tech and sustainability market will reach $36.31 billion by 2025, compared to $6.89 billion in 2018. And, looking slightly farther out, Research and Markets’ data suggests the industry will generate $57.8 billion in 2030, compared to $8.3 billion in 2019.

Accenture says 44% of CEOs foresee a net-zero future for their company in the next 10 years. The research firm’s “United Nations Global Compact – Accenture Strategy CEO Study on Sustainability” also suggests companies that have already taken steps toward sustainability are reaping the rewards. The data shows that between 2013 and 2019, companies with consistently high ESG (environmental, social, and governance) performance demonstrated lower volatility and almost five times higher operating margins than those with low ESG performance. For instance, one way companies are pursuing sustainability is by taking a “cloud-first approach.” Accenture’s research suggests migrations to public cloud result in 30-40% total cost of ownership savings.

Many companies are making moves toward sustainability, and they’re doing it for the right reasons, but there are some that are taking advantage of the trend to appear green in order to attract investors and customers. This “greenwashing” can redirect funds and business from companies that are actually putting in the time, money, and effort needed to make their business, products, and services sustainable, often through the use of technology.

When looking to make sustainable investments, investor research firm Morning Star encourages investors to look at all three categories in “ESG”: environmental, social, and governance. For instance, in the environmental category, this could include criteria like carbon emissions, energy efficiency, waste management, and pollution mitigation. In the social category, this could include diversity, labor standards, supply-chain management, product safety, customer privacy, and community impact. In the governance category, Morning Star says investors should watch out for red flags in board composition, executive compensation, and political contributions, and they should also look for policies and oversight that prevent bribery and corruption. If a company’s commitment to sustainability is only skin deep, it won’t be able to fake it in all of these categories. However, if companies want more than a skin-deep return on their investments, they’ll join the trend toward enterprise sustainability that will be part of what ultimately defines this decade.

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