Sustainability Trends - featured image 2

The Rising Trend of Sustainability in 2021

Many will agree, 2021 has been an unforgettable-forgettable year. As an optimist though, I tend to look through a brighter lens.

Yes, I acknowledge the ongoing pandemic ruined businesses, economies and lives, and overextends its stay far beyond. But on a more positive note, this has also been a year where awareness around serious sustainability issues has reached new heights.

With the end of the year closing in, it’s time to reflect and review how online search behaviour changed.

Here are some sustainable searches grounded in Google Trends data from the past year or so…

To start with, I decided to search “sustainability” and see what Google reveals and take it from there. As you can see in the chart below, “sustainability” showed amplified search this past year.

1 - sustainability trend-min

Events in honour of Earth Day 2021 may have caused the boost in search between April 18 -24. And the second-highest search volume peaked in early November around the time the 26th UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow took place. Read the outcomes of the climate change conference here, if it interests you.

Another explosion in search midway into March soared when Seaspiracy aired – a documentary film making waves about overfishing. I recommend you jump on board the Seaspiracy boat to help save the ocean.

Still, it seems that plenty of people are still unsure about what sustainability means. Here’s a little more on pinning down that pesky ‘sustainability’ thing.

Next, I took a look at “sustainable development goals” – another search term that exploded throughout this year (and last year). Looking at the data in detail shows the most interest from people in African regions. The rise in intrigue from poor and vulnerable countries is possibly due to Sustainable Development Goal 2, aiming to achieve “zero hunger” by 2030. This serves as one of the 17 goals established by the United Nations (UN) in 2015, which negotiators at COP26 addressed as a major concern.

In light of the tough negotiations that took place, the UN Climate Communications Lead, Martina Donlon, said the outcome provides some “positive steps forward”. She deems the call for doubling of finance to support poorer countries the second most impactful outcome of the Glasgow pact.

But, back to the data. The results changed when I searched “sustainable development goals” as a topic rather than a search term. As you can see in the image below, now people in Japan showed the most interest. This surge likely pinpoints the Government of Japan’s partnership with UNICEF in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme plans to run for a period of 12 months to support UNICEF Libya’s work. They aim to enhance the living conditions of vulnerable children.

Again, the sparked interest relates to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world.

In hindsight, people revealed their resourcefulness when businesses they relied on closed down again. They took matters into their own hands. They searched how to do things themselves, from cutting hair, making face masks and hand sanitiser to making more sustainable choices. Like learning how to recycle and grow vegetables, buy local, or even  source wild food.

Buying local and mushroom foraging trend

Supporting eco-conscious brands is also becoming more important. In the chart below, you can see steady global interest in “sustainable brands” and a few waves throughout the year. People also searched for “sustainable clothing brands” with the highest interest from Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Sustainable brands and clothing trend

As a tree hugger, one of the brands visible under Google Trends’ ‘related topics’ section intrigued me. I thought it worthy to elaborate on the ethos of tentree. This Canadian apparel company gained considerable traction in November likely due to their stance against Black Friday. Instead, they campaigned for a Green Friday.

It’s great to see an environmentally progressive brand such as tentree pave the way for a greener future.

As seen on tentree’s blog:

“Unfortunately, the mentality around Black Friday now focuses mainly on consumerism without much thought for the planet or its people. We’re not perfect either, but we’re doing our best. Planting trees is our biggest priority – we plant ten trees for each item purchased. That’s why here at tentree, we don’t do Black Friday. We do Green Friday. Making a profit is important for any brand, but for us, giving some green back to the planet is even more important.”

Any brand that promotes “the season to start giving a sh*t” gets a thumbs up from me. It’s a good time to give a sh*t about the world, about each other, about what our food and gifts contain, about the small eco wins, and a lot more. This is the season to live a little more environmental-ish.

Oh, and while we’re still on the topic of apparel, there was a curious surge in demand for ‘sustainable swimwear’ this year. We’ve no idea why. It hasn’t been a standout year for swimming, has it?

Finally, Akepa was founded in the middle of 2021 and since then searches for ‘sustainable marketing’, which were already on a rising trend, have risen quite a bit. Not only that, more and more brands seem to be searching for sustainable agencies to help them get that sustainable marketing spot on.

Nothing to do with us but that’s a good mix. Long may it continue, so Akepa can help even more transformative sustainable companies to grow and succeed in 2022. And the forecast for early next year looks promising.

It’s clear from the Google Trends data this year (and over 5 years) that people all over the world are showing increased awareness around sustainability causes.

It amazes me how, even in times of uncertainty and hardship, people still manage to seize opportunities to work together on a better tomorrow.

Pardon me while I break out into a little happy dance.

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Celesté Polley

Celesté is a content writer, creative photographer, pianist, avid birder, environmentalist at heart, and Earth wanderer from South Africa.

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