Three sustainability trends of note from 2023

A look at major sustainability and ESG developments in 2023 that could have a lasting impact for the future

Jenny Vuorenlinna

by Jenny Vuorenlinna

Looking back at 2023, it’s clear that a diverse range of sustainability initiatives and developments unfolded across different countries. Our database provides an excellent tool for reflecting on the latest news, but also to stay abreast of what’s to come.

In this article, we’ve picked out three noteworthy updates we tracked from last year, covering topics we believe will be important to keep track of in 2024 as well.

1. Global gender equality

Gender equality remains a pressing topic, with evolving regulations in several jurisdictions. We anticipate seeing a continued, concerted effort to address issues such as pay gaps and harassment.

Here, we highlight two examples of progress made in 2023, with the aim to improve gender equality in workplaces:



In July 2023, the Brazilian government introduced Law 14.611/23, which requires equal pay for equal work between men and women. Companies operating in Brazil with 100+ employees are now legally required to ensure equal salary between their male and female workers that perform work in the same function and of equal value. Following this update, companies also have to publish salary transparency reports and remuneration criteria every 6 months.

This legislation also sets out requirements to implement diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace, including training for managers and employees.



Another significant update concerning gender equality came earlier in 2023 in China. The amendments introduced to the Women’s Protection Law in China came into effect in January, with updates to expand the definition of sexual harassment and placing responsibility on employers to establish workplace codes and cultures that prohibit harassment. The amendments also aim to eliminate gender discrimination during the recruitment process and throughout employment, as well as in regard to unequal pay and employment contracts.

2. Road emission regulations

Air emissions has remained a critical sustainability trend for several years, and 2023 was no exception. It’s no surprise, then, that jurisdictions are strengthening their regulations to reduce emissions from road transports – a significant contributor to emission levels.


European Union

In the EU, the European Commission put forth a proposal in early 2023 to revise the Regulation on CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

The amendments will accelerate the initiatives previously in place under the regulation by including new emission reduction targets, with the aim to further reduce CO2 emissions from road transports and include stricter emission targets for 2030, 2035 and 2040. The regulation also promotes the increase of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles in the union.

Inevitably, with remarkably stricter targets set, the transport sector is likely to see continued shifts in regulatory requirements through 2024 and beyond – already exemplified in the European Council’s press release from January 2024.

3. A global baseline for responsible business conduct

The regulatory changes that occurred in 2023 evidence a clear pattern: Governing bodies are striving to set a global baseline for responsible business practices.

This is a much needed – and sought after – change to previous sustainability endeavors. Sustainability has lacked consistency and clarity when it comes to international operations for a long time, and the latest trends appear to be addressing this issue by introducing more universal guidelines for businesses to follow.


OECD Guidelines

One example is the update of the OECD Guidelines on responsible business conduct published in June 2023.

The Guidelines serve as a set of voluntary recommendations from governments to multinational corporations, encouraging them to play a more significant role in promoting sustainable development. They cover all key areas of business responsibility, such as environment, human rights, labor rights, corruption, disclosures, competition, and technology.

The 2023 edition of the guidelines includes a range of adjustments and updates. For example, it contains recommendations for companies to:

  • Align with international climate change and biodiversity goals
  • Implement risk-based due diligence for technology development, financing, and data management
  • Strengthen the protection of vulnerable individuals and groups, such as whistleblowers

Companies can use the guidelines to implement policies that promote economic, environmental, and social progress – minimizing adverse impacts of its operations.

Be ready for sustainability changes

This article highlights developments in three key sustainability areas, but there are numerous other sectors where progress might significantly influence businesses in the future. Preparedness is key for sustained business growth, particularly in light of the growing pressure on companies to report on sustainability-related information in their operations and supply chains.

See what’s coming

Recently adopted and proposed sustainability regulations on topics such as greenwashing and green claims, sustainability reporting and supply chain due diligence are set to impact businesses in a variety of sectors.

Join us for our webinar on February 29 to get a clear insight into how.

Book your place now