CHANNEL ISLANDS HARBOR, CA – According to a specialist in sustainable solutions in the cleaning industry, the past decade is when sustainability came of age. Steve Ashkin, President of The Ashkin Group, noted, "There has been what I call a 'sustainability shift.' More companies now realize that sustainability, cost savings, risk aversion and business growth all go hand-in-hand."
Ashkin believes that revisiting what was accomplished over the past 10 years will provide insight into where sustainability will be going in the next 10 years. He pointed out a number of changes related to sustainability that have occurred during that time. Among them, Ashkin notes that years ago only about 20% of S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports. Now, that number is closer to 90%. Additionally, the 2019 Business Roundtable released a new "Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation," asserting that U.S. companies should transition from focusing primarily on profits to "supporting communities and protecting the environment by embracing sustainable practices."
Another statistic that points to a shift towards sustainability is a change in focus on environmental issues. A decade ago, only about 40% of U.S. adults believed protecting the environment was a top priority. Today, that number is closer to 60%. Additionally, recycling and composting in the United States has gone from just over 75,000,000 tons in 2010 to nearly 100,000,000 tons today.
Another sign of a sustainability shift is a change in the power generation industry. In 2019, power generation in the United States from renewable energy sources surpassed power produced from coal. Related to this, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. coal mining output has declined 27% over the past decade. Coal is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The last 10 years have also seen a shift to renewable energy sources. Power generated by renewable energy sources increased 26 times from 2009 to 2019, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by two billion tons in 2019 alone. Solar energy is also gaining ground. The number of Americans employed in the U.S. solar industry has more than doubled since the beginning of the decade. There are now more people working in solar power industries than in oil, coal or gas.
"It is this last point that provides us with a solid indication of how sustainability will impact our economy," said Ashkin. "Simply put, sustainability is where the jobs are. In the next 10 years, we will see sustainability become one of the leading drivers of the U.S. economy.
Ashkin is President of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in “greening” the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which helps facilities monitor and measure their use of natural resources.