5 Industry trends shaping business - and how Nova Scotia companies can capitalize
Friday, February 18, 2022
As we embark on another year living with COVID-19, using the term “trends” can be problematic. While it may be challenging to predict what’s coming next, we asked our sector strategists to share their insights and help identify the potential key industry trends we see for 2022 and beyond.
In 2021, we saw a renewed focus on climate impacts and environmental concerns resulting in opportunities for companies that incorporate sustainability into their practices, infrastructure, and operations. From waste stream processing, circular economy solutions to bioeconomy activities, sustainable ventures are not slowing down. So how can Nova Scotia companies capitalize on this trend?
For starters, gauge whether your business is currently considered sustainable through reviewing the B Corps (Certified Beneficial Corporations) assessment quiz. Aside from understanding your company’s current rank, business owners can use the tool to identify where and how to start their focus on sustainability and monitor progress throughout the life cycle of their organization.
If a business already has elements of sustainability built into its model and process, marketing efforts can help with storytelling, incorporating eco-labeling, and promoting certifications. Increased consumer awareness and the demand for transparency have challenged greenwashing and any attempts to show face to environmental concerns. Businesses and marketers should be mindful to review the Government of Canada’s Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act, and the Textile Labeling Act to ensure their claims are legitimate.
Diversifying supply chains
If 2020-21 exposed anything, it’s the cracks in the global supply chain. Shipping and logistics were challenged in 2020-21, with COVID-19 causing disruptions and bottlenecks across the globe. Although using global supply chains to source the best products for your business can be key to remaining internationally competitive, diversifying, and keeping alternative supplier options close to home may also prove beneficial to business resiliency.
Companies of all sizes are projected to source more local, national, and continental products and materials in 2022. With the goal of minimizing ongoing disruptions from shipment and air voyages related to Omicron and geopolitical concerns, businesses are finding value in sourcing some items closer to home, which can provide more stability during turbulent global business environments.
While this approach can minimize certain challenges, sourcing from and exporting to viable global markets should not be abandoned. Trade agreements such as The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership are opening doors for Canadian exporters. With the elimination of European tariffs, streamlined administrative procedures, and access to certain key markets such as Japan, Vietnam, Peru, and Chile, now could be the opportune time to consider diversification and global expansion.
Although the “Great Resignation” is expected to slow down in 2022, the sentiment remains. Over the course of the pandemic, workers evaluated their employment situation and relationship with work. Many moved on from roles that no longer fit their values or priorities or met their financial needs. One of the biggest takeaways? Workers want remote and flexible options to better manage their work-life balance.
The BDC surveyed more than 700 small businesses and 2,000 Canadian workers and produced a report that found three-quarters of business owners plan to offer remote positions post-pandemic. Major companies have adopted hybrid work arrangements (where possible), with the flexibility to work from home and/or in the office, followed by a boom in the application of useful technologies and productivity tracking tools to help support and aid collaboration between both.
In a tight labour market characterized by shortages, scarcity, and a lack of skills match, companies who can shift to a permanent hybrid or remote model may be more likely to retain workers and attract the skilled talent pool that’s so in demand right now. Companies should ensure the hybrid approach is built into their overarching strategic plan and workplace culture. Enlisting the help of change management professionals and redesigning policies, processes, and internal communications plans that take flex work challenges into consideration will prove the most successful.
Carrying into events and conferences, 2022 will see more hybrid events with both in-person and virtual components. This new model maximizes the benefits of in-person connection building, the flexibility of remote access, as well as online marketing and data collection opportunities. Just be certain to research what virtual platform is most compatible with your event format or hire a digital consultant or event planner to assist.
Robotics and automation
The adoption of robotics and autonomous technology is accelerating. Although robotic tech has been a staple in manufacturing for years, all industries are seeing a renewed focus on how work can be streamlined to support revenue growth, while being managed autonomously or via robotic assistance.
Intelligent online automation tools continue to prove beneficial throughout the pandemic for maintaining business continuity. 2022 will see this increase as hybrid work environments take on autonomous workflows, productivity tracking tools, auto-generated e-mail marketing, and advertising, virtual assistants, and online self-service portals. Just as physical assembly lines unlocked fast, consistent, and precise production leading to reduced timelines and costs, the same is applied to virtual and online processes in the digital sphere.
The rise of robotics and automation is not a direct threat to employees. Automation is any technology that performs repetitive tasks with reduced human input, which frees up workers for more value-added assignments. These changes are often complementary, meant to enhance not replace, paired with human operators that create new and different job titles and functions. In fact, amid the current labour shortage, autonomous tech may alleviate pressure from both employees juggling larger workloads and employers struggling to attract new talent.
2021 saw the continuation of COVID-19 variants of concern, closures, health challenges, geopolitical tensions, social justice movements, climate events, supply chain disruptions, and shortages. And we can expect to continue to feel the impact into 2022.
Consumption habits are projected to make a modest recovery in the year ahead. However, consumers are now seeking information and accuracy prior to purchasing, increasingly with the goal of imparting positive social, economic, and environmental change. This emergence of the “ethical consumer” proves that companies with the grit to show and share their commitment to causes will win brand love and loyalty.
Convenience is also key. Being housebound demanded companies seamlessly shift their in-person storefront online to e-commerce. This isn’t likely to change in 2022 as consumers expect ever-improving hassle-free mobile ordering, quick delivery and pick-up, and accurate personalization. Businesses who aim to deliver on these client expectations will benefit, while those who don’t are likely to fall behind.
Finally, the popularity of personal health devices, home therapeutics, and natural health products is likely to continue to grow over the coming year. With technology, individuals can be more active participants in managing their own health and wellness. The heightened health awareness due to COVID-19 has also made consumers more concerned with health management and taking proactive measures.