“The trends that are shaping the 21st Century world embody both promise and peril.” ~ Klaus Schwab

A reflection on 2018 trends and Creative Concern’s predictions of the sustainability and social trends that will dominate 2019.

After Attenborough’s imploring final words in Blue Planet II in 2017, “The future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us”, 2018 seemed to witness ethical living and more conscious consumption hit the mainstream as consumers on mass started to take notice of their usage, and tweeted about it. 

Documentaries, such as wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin’s Drowning in Plastic hit the headlines, and hit home. And add to this the steady rise and education of veganism and, of course, the mass outcry when the nation opened their cupboards and realised palm oil seemed to be a previously undetected ingredient in so many of the items residing inside. All in all, 2018 challenged the public’s ethical integrity on a large scale.

However, despite widely discussed efforts – single use plastic bag usage has reportedly dropped by 85% since the 5p charge was introduced and there’s been an estimated 30% drop in plastic bags on the seabed over this time – 2018 still saw global carbon emissions jump to an all-time high.

Keeping up to date with the latest consumer, market, social and ethical trends is essential for any organisation hoping to thrive in their industry. And that’s why here at Creative Concern, we’re looking ahead to what we expect the biggest sustainability and social trends will be in 2019.


#5 Microfibres and microplastics

Microplastics and microfibres are caused by semi-biodegradable plastics and even things such as cleaning polyester garments in your washing machine. The fibres and plastics are so small that they pass through water filtration directly into our rivers and oceans and straight into the marine food chain. This is causing disastrous consequences for marine life and health and could remain in the ocean forever.

Microplastics are the evil that has evaded our sight and our media for a long time but we believe 2019 is set to see that change dramatically.

#4 Fast fashion and unethical clothing

Whereas many have considered the ethical origin of their cheap clothing for a long time, changes in consumer behaviour, up until now, have been minimal.

Fast fashion is a growing concern in society, and we predict this will only continue.

It focuses on a continuous stream of new styles inspired by the season’s catwalk delivered at a low cost to the mass market. The pressure for brands and manufacturers to reduce cost and supply quickly to a shop floor results in a much higher likelihood that environmental corners are cut in the process. The greatest criticisms of fast fashion are its negative environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals (often to achieve vibrant prints and patterns) and the level of textile waste.

Burberry, amongst others, was named and shamed in the press for burning surplus stock, but the reality is they are just a few of the companies and issues that the fashion industry is facing. 

#3 Air quality

The UK has seen, judged and commented on the pollution and air quality levels of smog and factory ridden countries for a long time. But with traffic now recognised as the leading global cause of air pollution, 2019 will continue to bring air quality issues a lot closer to home to light.

Air pollution can cause long and short-term health effects; the World Health Organisation estimates that globally 7 million people die each year from exposure to pollution.

After a study that ranked Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool as some of the most polluted cities in the UK and local governments working towards reducing their emissions the UK public are starting to take notice more than ever before. 

#2 Meat and dairy

We’re only a couple of weeks into 2019, yet we have seen a massive rise in uptake and press around Veganuary with people posting updates and hashtags and even brands such as Marks & Spencer, McDonalds and Greggs launching new products to coincide with the January month-long campaign. It has been estimated that the challenge will be undertaken by around 3 times as many people as last year.

There has been a notable increase in negative public perceptions of the meat and dairy industries. For those not fully committed to the meat and dairy free diet there has also been a rise in vegetarian and ‘flexitarian’ diets with more and more consumers adopting a more conscious level of consumption and taking a more environmentally sustainable approach to their meat intake. 

With rising global concerns over meat and its impact on climate change, we believe this is only going to continue to increase throughout 2019.

#1 Single use plastics and excessive packaging

Many conscious consumers have already taken active measures against takeaway cups, plastic straws, plastic water bottles and single use plastic shopping bags, but more can be done. It has been a hot topic for a while now but just like the plastic on our landfills and in our oceans, it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

Heidi Taylor, the founder of Australian marine protection charityTangaroa Blue said, “Plastic is one of the most useful materials we have ever created. Our problem is not with plastic as a material but what we use it for. We make so many things that don’t require the longevity that plastic has – we don’t need a straw that we will use to sip one drink that will stay in the environment forever.”

With this in mind, it’s the single use plastics, the bottles, bags and excessive packaging used by our supermarkets that we believe will be the number 1 sustainability trend of 2019.