Consumer demand for sustainable products is at an all-time high, likely due to a growing understanding of how consumption and energy use can impact the environment. In response, businesses are prioritizing sustainable practices and committing to goals to reduce consumption of resources, production of carbon emissions and generation of waste products.
While discussions of sustainability often center on the cost of sustainable practices, they could also be a major driver of growth for markets around the world. This is how eco-friendly practices could bolster the global economy as sustainability becomes a top business priority over the next few years.
Low-Waste Manufacturing and Safeguarding Raw Materials
Often, a key benefit of new sustainable technologies is their ability to reduce waste. They help manufacturers do more with less, reduce costs and ensure the availability of resources in the future.
For example, additive technologies, like 3D printing, are generating interest partly because they produce very little waste compared to conventional manufacturing. The process of adding material to a base via printing, rather than cutting it away to create the desired shape, makes it easier to minimize the by-product a project generates.
The growing availability of sustainable printing materials, like wood and metal, means manufacturers can also use 3D printing to mass-produce items with minimal waste.
These goods can also be more sustainable than those produced traditionally.
Some research has also found that 3D printing can use less energy than conventional manufacturing techniques, further reducing the environmental footprint. By reducing waste and resource consumption, sustainability may help manufacturers reduce costs and secure a competitive advantage.
Other manufacturing approaches look to recapture existing waste or find ways to turn it into resources other businesses may overlook. Reclaimed and recycled materials are an increasingly popular method for making manufacturing processes more sustainable.
Even as raw materials become more expensive, businesses can keep costs low by finding ways to take advantage of used materials that were set to go to landfills.
Practices that conserve limited raw materials in the first place can also safeguard future profits. Sustainable aquaculture can help fishermen limit resource consumption while avoiding overharvesting, which can result in smaller hauls and lower available revenue in the future. Sustainable lobster fishing uses techniques like v-notching — the marking of female lobsters with eggs — and trap size limits to preserve a population large enough to meet current and future demand.
In most industries, the availability of future resources will be dependent on current resource use to one extent or another. Sustainable resource generation and low-waste manufacturing are essential for businesses wanting to secure future growth.
Creating New Markets With Innovative Sustainable Products
Some products also create new opportunities for consumers. Many of these sustainable items are driving significant growth and reinvigorating markets that have been struggling over the past few years.
One of the best examples of these products is the e-bike, a transportation option often recommended to people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. Unlike electric vehicles, which are typically thought of as a sustainable alternative to conventional cars, e-bikes create a sustainable transportation option that fills a formerly neglected demand niche.
These bikes are outfitted with a small electric motor and battery. They offer improved mobility and range over a standard bicycle, without the high speed or mechanical complexity of a vehicle like a moped or motorcycle.
In areas where environmental factors make bike travel impractical — like steep hills or long distances between important locations — e-bikes may still function as an effective means of travel. Also, because they can be plugged into any standard outlet, users in areas without EV infrastructure can adopt the bikes without worrying about running out of charge.
There is significant evidence that demand for e-bikes is one of the primary drivers behind the growth in bicycling right now. As imports of pedal-only bikes tanked in 2019 and 2020, there was an explosive increase in e-bike demand. Estimates of the market growth often have it on track to grow noticeably faster than the bike market in the near future, and some observers predict these bikes will eclipse standard options in the next few years.
For people living in or returning to cities and other population-dense areas, transportation options like e-bikes are likely to become much more popular. While bikes aren’t always an effective transportation option, e-bikes may mean consumers won’t have to turn to gas-powered methods — like public transit, conventional cars or mopeds — to get around.
Reducing Resource Consumption
The ongoing pivot to sustainable practices is also changing how and where businesses operate. One of the most significant changes has been in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Companies and architectural firms are starting to take advantage of innovative design techniques and new smart technology to reduce the resources needed to keep new buildings operational.
For example, whole-building design techniques change how structures are organized to save money or reduce energy consumption. Clever window placement can significantly increase the amount of natural lighting an office receives. This can make a building more pleasant for its occupants and reduce electricity costs.
Smart lighting systems, which can automatically adjust artificial sources based on the time of day and how much natural light a room is receiving, can optimize things even further.
Similar design strategies can help businesses cut down water usage or optimize an HVAC system. According to some industry experts, the use of high-performance HVAC equipment can result in cost cuts, emissions reductions and energy savings of up to 40% or more.
Whole-building design techniques can offer greater savings while also reducing the amount of work HVAC systems need to perform to keep a building comfortable. This can reduce the wear and tear in normal operations, meaning components may not have to be replaced or repaired as often.
Sustainability Is Driving Growth Around the World
In the near future, sustainable practices will be key drivers of business growth.
The more mindful use of resources will help ensure businesses minimize waste and keep raw materials available well into the future. New building design strategies will make offices and factories more comfortable and efficient, reducing resource consumption while boosting productivity.
Sustainable business strategies may also meet customer demands that were previously being ignored, such as the use of e-bikes. All these practices will help drive the economy to new heights and help the planet at the same time, something that benefits everyone.