The Sustainability Trends Report



If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

Abraham Lincoln, June 16 1858


Dear Reader,

Generation Investment Management is pleased to present the sixth edition of our Sustainability Trends Report. This series of annual reports surveys the broad landscape of what we often call the “sustainability revolution”. We believe this transition is still in its earliest stages, and that accelerating it is essential to human welfare and to the preservation of the natural world. Each year, we take stock: where does the transition stand now, and where must it go next?

With this year’s edition of the report, we introduce a significant reorganisation. Our emphasis is on a deeper analysis of the core drivers of change. To focus more directly on greenhouse-gas emissions — the world’s most acute and urgent environmental problem — we have restructured the categories in the document to match the economic sectors by which greenhouse gases are normally reported. In addition, starting this year, we intend to lead off with an essay that captures an of-the-moment set of issues regarding sustainability. For 2022, the essay section focuses on the many ways the war in Ukraine has altered the energy discussion in Europe, raising the possibility that the European Union could lead the world in a faster transition to clean energy.

We are encouraged by the climate legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress this year, and believe it will lead to a historic acceleration of the sustainability revolution. It will strengthen the leadership role of the United States in the global effort to solve the climate crisis. We also welcome the dramatic shift in Australia’s climate policy, with a new commitment to cutting emissions.

We solicit your comments on this report, and your suggestions on how to improve it in future years. Comments can be emailed to

On behalf of the partners and employees of Generation Investment Management and Just Climate,

Al Gore, Chairman
David Blood, Senior Partner

Key messages

01 Year in Focus

Two major developments this year have raised the chances of a rapid acceleration in the transition to clean energy. The Ukraine war has thrown the risks of European dependence on Russian fuels into sharp relief, prompting the European Union to raise its goals for renewable energy. Additionally, a new law in the United States could potentially cut emissions to as much as 40 percent below 2005 levels.

02 Power

The first task of the energy transition is to clean up the power grid, so that it can become the backbone for electrified transport and other energy services formerly supplied by fossil fuels. At a global scale, this clean-up has yet to begin. But the rate of emissions growth is trending sharply downward, and we may be only a few years from a global peak in electricity emissions.

03 Transportation

Sales of electric and hybrid cars are approaching 10 percent of all vehicle sales globally, and far exceed that in some countries. There is no longer much doubt that we can and will pull off the electrification of the world’s automotive fleet, though the transition is being slowed by shortages of critical minerals like lithium.

04 Buildings

Governments have yet to find the right mix of policies to speed up the transition to a greener stock of buildings. Rates of renovation and energy retro-fitting remain low all over the world. The latest policy idea is to mandate reductions in energy use, jump-starting the renovation market, and laws to that effect are starting to appear.

05 Industry

Emissions from industries like steel, cement and chemicals remain a major unsolved problem, with few government policies in place to speed the transition. The earliest stages of a green transition in steel manufacture are occurring, however, with plants under construction that will use clean hydrogen as their energy source. At the Glasgow climate summit, numerous governments and large corporations committed to start buying clean industrial products, sending a crucial market signal.

06 Land & Food

Rates of forest destruction and of species extinction remain at worrying levels. Deforestation has been trending downward over the course of decades, with recent reversals in some parts of the tropics. Repeated promises by Western corporations to eliminate forest destruction from their supply chains have so far yielded scant progress.

07 Financing the Transition

Annual investment in the clean economy appears certain to exceed $1 trillion in the next few years. Yet that is not enough to get on a path consistent with the global goal of limiting planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. So far, most of the money is being spent in rich countries, not those with the most acute need for investment. BloombergNEF calculates that investment will need to reach $2 trillion annually by the middle of the decade, then double again by 2030. In particular, not enough money is flowing into solving the hardest problems, like industrial emissions.

08 Looking Ahead

The urgency of the climate crisis requires the transformation of every sector of the world economy. This transition will be the most significant change in economic history, and the rich countries of the world, which got that way by burning more than their fair share of fossil fuels, have a moral duty to lead the way. We will be watching closely over the next year to see if emerging policies in Europe, the United States and Australia help to create global momentum, leading to the stepped-up action that is so imperative.

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