A Look Back at 2023: Reflections and Lessons Learned

A Look Back at 2023: Reflections and Lessons Learned

Posted By on Dec 27th 2023

This last week of the year is often one of my favorites. My kids are home from school, so I can swap the morning and evening rush for calm moments with the family instead. Much of the team is on PTO or working remotely, making the warehouse feel like a quiet place of respite for a brief period.

And, of course, I love reflecting on the year we’ve had, what I’ve learned, and the insights I’ll take with me into 2024.

In writing this, I was shocked to find that many trends I assumed would be front of mind because how much I talked about them this year did not rise to a true level of importance and impact on my year. This includes trends such as AI and determining if and how to leverage AI in our strategy and operations, the rise of Temu and other super low-cost eCommerce platforms, and the economic headwinds the eCommerce industry continued to face this year.

I hope some of it is useful to you by inspiring you to take stock in the last twelve months or by putting forth some concepts you resonate with.

Accelerating the growth of team members through internal transitions is a boost for everyone - especially me

One of the best wins of 2023 has been watching and supporting team members as they grow into new positions across the organization. A fulfillment associate took on the role of facilities safety management. A print associate took over the digital print department. The manager of our customer success team made a lateral move into communications, systems oversight, and continuous improvement. A national account manager took over that role, managing the customer success team. Another fulfillment associate has been pursuing her diploma and various certificates all year and recently began supporting the business development process. These are just a handful of the many examples we had this year in which a team member performed at a very high level and could take on new responsibilities or make a significant career change within EcoEnclose.

Here’s one of my favorite examples of this. We have an incredible individual on our team who has worked with EcoEnclose for over five years. He started as a fulfillment associate and quickly proved to be one of our team's most adept problem solvers - perhaps one of the most adept problem solvers I’ve ever met. Over the years, his skillset and attitude have allowed him to expand his role to include machine maintenance, facilities oversight, operational oversight, outbound and inbound shipping efficiency, and special project execution. His professional growth at EcoEnclose has been swift, and his contributions have been far-reaching. However, until this year, his work primarily focused on our production and warehouse operations.

Recently, we decided to invest more internal capacity in building excellence, visibility, and quality assurance across our increasingly complex supply chain. At the same time, this individual shared his desire to evolve further and expand professionally, hoping to put himself on an entirely different career trajectory long-term. While he didn’t have specific skills and experience managing supply chain partnerships, we recognized that his unique strengths - creative problem solving, forging deep connections and personal relationships, seeing opportunity and solutions amid challenges - were all ones that would enable him to be successful long-term in this type of work.

Situations like this always lead us to weigh the pros and cons of hiring externally or filling a role internally. Hiring externally is tempting. You can bring in someone with direct experience in the work at hand and can step into the day-to-day job more quickly.

But this tactical, short-term upside pales in comparison to the experience of watching someone talented who has grown so significantly and who has shown tremendous commitment to your organization step into a new professional challenge - one that has the potential to change the course of their long-term career.

In addition to being an insanely rewarding component of my role at EcoEnclose, working through these internal changes also has the amazing benefit of:

  • Ensuring the right person is in the right seat, based on their skill set, interests, and long-term career aspirations - gives us more likelihood of retaining outstanding talent.
  • Motivating all team members by serving as a reminder that high performance in whatever role a person is in will create opportunities - often, opportunities a person may not even have known existed.
  • Reminding all of us that professional and personal growth is by no means linear. Career trajectories take twists and turns, and making the space for these will set companies and individual team members up for success.

Is our collective use of “greenwashing” as a weapon holding sustainability efforts back?

Greenwashing - false, misleading, or unsubstantiated environmental claims - is a very real thing.

This year, the European Commission proposed the Green Claims Directive, which aims to prevent companies from making unclear or unsubstantiated environmental claims (so-called "greenwashing") and using labels that are not credible. Additionally, the evolution and expansion of FTC’s Green Guides aim to increase oversight of these false advertising practices within the US. We see this trend towards more scrutiny and legislation to ensure messaging is accurate, clear, and transparent as much-needed progress for consumers and the planet.

But I’m also seeing concerning trends regarding the term “greenwashing.”

Some are using the word - in panels, speeches, social media posts, blog posts, their own advertising - as a weapon to shut down an otherwise productive and enriching dialogue.

Additionally, some brands we speak with avoid making sustainability or end-of-life-related claims on their packaging or about their products out of fear of retribution or backlash. And if a company can’t promote an investment they are making, it won’t reap the short-term brand benefits of that decision, making it far less likely to pursue sustainability improvements to begin with.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen of this in 2023:

  • A brand was nervous about labeling their plastic packaging as “thin film recyclable,” fearing a backlash that this would be considered greenwashing because the thin film requires a separate store drop-off for recycling. Their consumers will now see their packaging as unrecyclable and destined for the landfill, even though the material can easily be turned back into film or composite decking and the fact that there is a vast market out there for this material.
  • A representative of the paper industry on a panel about the future of packaging shut down the use of recycled plastic packaging as being “greenwashing,” even though there are pros and cons to both paper and plastic options, and any efforts towards using recycled plastic should be pursued. This term quickly silenced any further debate - as the “greenwashing” accusation is a hard one to pedal back from.
  • A member of my social media network claimed that a retail box with a seaweed film window (instead of a petroleum-based virgin plastic window) was greenwashing, despite full transparency about the fact that the window - regardless of what it is made out of - will be screened out and landfilled during the repulping process.

Our unique community of leaders committed to sustainability can work together to balance the two competing needs.

First, we need to hold everyone across the supply chain accountable for accuracy, specificity, and transparency when they are making environmental claims.

Second, we must avoid creating a culture of fear that prevents brands from making critical investments in more sustainable packaging (and other sustainability investments) and could shut down innovation, dialogue, and progress.

There is no Oz behind the curtain with all the answers on how to run a business

Hint: seek out feedback and guidance

When I started in the professional world after college, I looked upwards - at my manager, her manager, and his manager, all the way up to the CEO and assumed they had all the answers. I figured there was some magic formula they were following to set their goals, develop their strategies, and give me professional feedback. When I disagreed with a direction being charted (which was not necessarily infrequent), I voiced my thoughts but, again, assumed there was a playbook I wasn’t privy to.

Fast forward two decades later, and I now understand there is no Oz behind the curtain with all the answers. There is no perfect strategy, playbook, or answer. Just like no one gave me one when I left the hospital with my firstborn, no one gave me one when I became the owner and CEO of a business.

I’ve gone to business school and seen no professor give the same guidance. I’ve had a decade of strategic advising experience and have seen that the strategy I provide pales compared to the organization’s effectiveness in execution - and that there are dozens of ways to execute effectively.

I am an avid reader, and about half of my consumption is related to business strategy. There is no set direction even among the three dozen business and leadership-related books I read in the last year alone. Some (like Lean Startup) tell you to avoid overanalyzing. Take a step forward, build a minimum viable product, and then assess, improve, or stop based on the feedback you receive and the data you collect. Others (like Working Backwards) advise in-depth assessment, data analysis, and feedback gathering when embarking on a new strategy. Some leadership books direct you to focus on a singular thing, and with such intense and directed focus, your goals will come true. Others advise you to scrap goal setting altogether and instead establish themes that orient your efforts. Some push the 80/20 rule, while others push leaders to be maniacally focused on every single detail, believing that obsession with perfection is how companies win.

Several years into business leadership, I am finally comfortable with the lack of perfect answers and pathways. There are no silver bullets to leadership, setting goals, strategy, management, and execution that someone isn’t telling me. And, if we do achieve our goals, there will not be a singular lever that drives our outcomes.

Now that I’m finally comfortable with this, I have come to fully recognize how important it is to engage the perspectives of others in analysis decision-making. It can’t simply be Kyle (President) and Saloni (CEO) in a room charting a course by ourselves.

In 2023, this has led us to take a few giant steps forward:

  • Gathering internal feedback and creating dialogue. We began fielding a survey twice yearly to gauge overall employee engagement satisfaction and give space for ideas and feedback on our operations and strategy. In addition to this formal feedback-gathering mechanism, we proactively seek feedback during 1-1s, weekly meetings, and team planning sessions. The input we get is incredibly valuable and a reminder that we don’t know the ins and outs of every aspect of our organization and the customer experience in the way we once did.
  • Engaging consultants and advisors who have deep experience in areas we do not. We engaged outside support on everything from Marketing to Sales to Strategy this year, and every time we have made this investment, we have come away energized, informed, and with new levels of clarity about the optimal path forward.
  • Bringing on an Executive Coach to help us find clarity when our minds are murky, and we are analyzing or making decisions from a place of emotionality and reactiveness rather than with a clear and open mind.

Taking these steps is humbling.

You must be vulnerable and open to feedback and (sometimes harsh) criticism. You must listen without defensiveness while maintaining your confidence and sense of self. Ultimately, you have to take all the information in and make concrete decisions, all while knowing full well that no decision is perfect and there is no playbook to follow.

Can we bring back nuance and the ability to hold two conflicting truths simultaneously?

It may be a sign of the political and social media times in general. Still, seeing an ever-increasing unwillingness to recognize the nuance and complexity of viewpoints and decision-making can be disheartening.

For example, EcoEnclose has always been vocal about our concerns about paper. We are witnessing the shift from plastic to paper without enough regard for how that paper is being sourced, a transition that is increasing pressure on ancient and endangered forests, which are already under so much pressure from other drivers of deforestation. This has led EcoEnclose to seek ways to accelerate the market adoption of promising non-wood alternatives to paper fiber - such as wheat straw, hemp waste, switchgrass, and miscanthus. Diversifying the fiber basket is essential to a more sustainable future of paper.

When I share our research (or the research of organizations like Canopy Planet) and efforts, I often get angry responses from staunch advocates of the logging, pulping, or paper industry who state that wood fibers are already “sustainable,” so there is no need for this step.

It is true that trees can be produced responsibly and that when paper is sourced through responsible forestry, there are important upsides. It is also true that in some parts of the world, sustainable forestry is more common and is not putting pressure on primary forests. Often, this is because no primary forests remain to put pressure on.

However, it is also true that (1) the majority of trees harvested worldwide are still not being produced through certified sustainable forestry, (2) responsible diversification of inputs and resources is always a net positive for the planet - even though it can feel threatening to industry, and (3) keeping primary forests as intact as we possible can is an essential step to curbing climate change and biodiversity loss.

All these things are true simultaneously, creating a complex reality we must wade through. In this case, investing in sustainable forestry and appreciating its benefits while simultaneously pushing for a more diversified fiber basket long-term is an approach that recognizes these competing truths.

Another example is EcoEnclose’s exciting partnership with Sway this year! We are thrilled to have launched a line of retail boxes with Sway seaweed windows, helping to bring their innovative seaweed material to businesses of all sizes. In fact, this is EcoEnclose’s first foray into bioplastics. We have heavily researched the bioplastic space and recognize the importance of bringing bio-based alternatives to petroplastics into the market. Still, we hadn’t previously identified a commercially viable material that supports our environmental framework.

We forged this partnership with Sway after extensive research on seaweed and learning about the positive impact that seaweed production can have on the environment, as well as what we’ve learned about Sway’s incredible team and their commitment to responsible supply chains and manufacturing.

Anyone who has worked closely with EcoEnclose has likely seen research on why we prioritize recyclability over compostability for clean packaging. So why did we take this significant leap on a material designed for home compostability? Because we recognize that multiple things can be true:

  • EcoEnclose prioritizes recycling over composting in the waste hierarchy for clean packaging.
  • Packaging material source inputs drive the majority of its environmental impact (not the end of life). Seaweed as a packaging input shows exceptional promise and can be produced in ways that restore ocean ecosystems.
  • It is impossible for an emerging material with minimal market presence to be “recyclable” because something can only be recyclable if sorted and separated and if markets are willing to purchase and remanufacture it. This will never be true for a developing material with minimal market penetration. We would not want our commitment to recyclability and circularity to become a reason to prioritize fossil fuel plastics that maintain the status quo over a promising new material.

So, we made the leap. Is it perfect in every way? No - no decision is. But we are thrilled and see it as a tremendous leap forward in helping to diversify the materials used to make plastic and plastic-like packaging today.

In many ways, this recognition of nuance and complexity has led to EcoEnclose’s somewhat unique position in the market. We develop and offer many solutions and can adopt new materials and concepts anytime one aligns with our sustainability vision and framework. Recycled poly film, recycled paper, reusable textile bags, bioplastics – our framework can allow for all of them. This means that new solutions never pose a “threat” to us. This position allows me to take a nuanced approach to research and decision-making, giving me the green light to say YES to any solution that looks to be a significant step forward in achieving our north star of circularity.

Every hire and promotion represents a significant decision to elevate culture and performance - bring rigor, energy, and consistency to these decisions

Like many in our industry, COVID times were fraught with the need to hire quickly and inconsistently. While many folks we hired during those two years are exceptional, this may be due more to luck than to the profound clarity and rigor we brought to the hiring process. Hiring during COVID made me somewhat exhausted by the process because my energy was focused on getting new people in the door and onboarding quickly.

Thankfully, we spent 2023 reflecting on our hiring processes, wins, and challenges over the past few years, which ushered in new perspectives and approaches. We remember that each new hire represents an incredible opportunity to build, strengthen, and elevate our team. We acknowledged how much we respect our existing teams and team members and the culture they have worked to create - and that bringing anything less than our whole selves to the hiring process is a disservice to everyone already at EcoEnclose.

Our first attempts to bring a more systematic approach to hiring helped raise our game. Still, we quickly realized that different people have different definitions of the key characteristics we were looking for - excellence, leadership, positivity, etc. I had an aha moment remembering my days at Teach for America. This organization built a data-driven performance rubric for every aspect of its teacher preparation, support, and staff development.

This led us to develop an agreed-upon rubric to drive our interview questions, interviewee assessment, and our 30/60/90-day review process for new hires. At every stage in the interview process, interviewers and hiring managers seek clarity on a candidate’s proficiency across each rubric category. Everyone who participates in an interview completes a form sharing their ratings and evaluations against this rubric.

This process has been a tremendous win for EcoEnclose and has brought much positive energy and alignment to our hiring process. If you’re curious to see our rubric, send me a note! I’d love to share it and any other context or learnings.

I’ve come to respect that most people in this space are committed to the same sustainability goals

This makes it easier to appreciate people even when we disagree.

People truly committed to environmental sustainability generally want the same outcomes:

  • To achieve sub 1.5-degree warming, and optimally, to reverse climate change - preserving our seal levels, livable zones, agricultural trends, precipitation patterns, etc. - as much as possible
  • To stop the creation of marine plastic pollution and clean up the massive amount of existing litter from our oceans and beaches
  • To reverse ocean acidification and the tragic consequences this is having on sea life (especially coral reefs) and climate change
  • To protect biodiversity
  • To protect our ancient and endangered forests
  • Clean air for humans and animals to breathe
  • Clean water for humans and animals to drink
  • To minimize excessive landfill-bound waste due to the emissions and pollution caused by landfills and the unused resource potential that is wasting away in these landfills
  • And so much more.

There is no perfect pathway to achieving these outcomes. And, to add to the frustration, some decisions supporting one outcome can counter another.

Many times this year, I found myself on the sidelines of a debate (and sometimes in the heart of a debate) in which people (sometimes sadly the person was myself) were so excessively consumed by proving their point that none of us stopped to acknowledge:

(1) the outcomes each person is trying to achieve - and the degree to which those outcomes are aligned or in conflict

(2) the fact that no one knows the exact correct answer as to how to achieve that particular outcome best, and which outcome is most important, and

(3) if we’re deeply embroiled in this type of debate, we are likely all on the same side to begin with, and we can all benefit from recognizing these as powerful opportunities to create allegiance and camaraderie.

The reintroduction of wolves into Colorado is a timely example of this in action and is happening right here in EcoEnclose’s backyard.

Just last week, Colorado released five wolves west of the Continental Divide in response to voter-approved statute 33-2-105.8, which directed the Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado. I was one of the people who voted for this proposition. After reading about the tremendously positive impact of reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone, I was excited about how this rewilding could help restore biodiversity and healthy ecosystems in Colorado. Given the success in Yellowstone, it never would have occurred to me that there were countering viewpoints here.

But in the past year, I’ve spoken with environmentalists who are frustrated that this proposition passed and felt that not enough airtime was given to the potential downsides these efforts can have on Colorado. They believe Yellowstone needed wolves because the national park has no hunting. But in Colorado, hunting and fishing are critical drivers of conversation efforts statewide (not to mention economic development and job creation). The revenue generated from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses supports the state’s wildlife management efforts, including threatened and endangered species programs, wildlife reintroductions, and habitat conservation. These environmentalists are nervous that the introduction of wolves will make hunting even less viable in the state, cutting off millions of conservation dollars.

Hearing these (quite sensible) counterpoints has been a good reminder that we are all looking to achieve the same outcomes in our state - conservation and protection of ecosystems, restoration of habitats, and the overall protection of all we love about Colorado.

New materials innovation can be slow and fraught with frustrations, so we are grateful for the early adopters paving the way with us

I think everyone reading this can agree that even the most sustainable packaging today is still far from perfect and that we have a long way to go before achieving true packaging circularity.

There are, however, quite a few emerging innovations out there that, based on our research, hold a lot of promise of being restorative and even regenerative at scale - though we recognize that they aren’t perfect yet - ecologically or operationally.

For example, 100% post-consumer waste films can be recycled back into filmfilm made from seaweed - an input that can be produced restoratively and without reliance on freshwater or chemicals- and paper made from agricultural waste instead of trees. Additionally, trends like reusable packaging for eCommerce shipments and eliminating secondary packaging are also emerging and can go a long way in achieving increasing levels of circularity.

Unfortunately, the adoption curve on innovations and packaging models is tricky.

If these innovations had the same functionality and cost as the solutions they were replacing, they would already be mainstream. So, in general, the companies with the massive pockets to produce innovative packaging at scale with these emerging materials are way too large, cost-focused, and risk-averse to try them.

This means it often has to be the sustainability-focused innovators and early adopters who take the leap. They are excited to be at the cutting edge of environmental progress. They have the patience to deal with new materials and solutions' potential issues and unknowns.

Looking back at 2023, I can point to dozens of such brands who helped pave the way for solutions and materials we hope are mainstream options in the future. Incredible brands have helped us test and refine: Retail boxes with Sway seaweed film windows, reusable mailers for eCommerce, curbside recyclable paper pouches, kraft bags as a poly bag alternative, paper pallet wrap, high PCR pallet wrap, and more. Collaborating with these brands has been an incredibly exciting part of my year.

For example, Armoire became our first brand to fully customize a reusable mailer to meet their unique structural and branding needs. They began piloting these bags in early summer, bringing us feedback and data at every step. We learned what kind of improvements we need to make to hardware (zippers, buttons), how small carriers handle these bags, and the steps to make the label-cleaning process more seamless for our brands.

Cairn Coffee Roasters became the first coffee brand we worked with to customize their curbside recyclable paper pouches fully. This process led to significant learning and back and forth on design, packaging functionality, and production delays. Cairn was a patient, engaged, and committed partner at every stage.

DiSC, Hogan, Enneagram, Myers-Briggs – whatever work style test you choose, invest in it, use it properly, and apply it consistently

As healthy teams grow and evolve, tensions and conflicts inevitably arise. I’ve never been in a workplace without this dynamic, and I believe something is wrong if a workplace doesn’t have it. People probably aren’t pushing themselves, pushing each other, or pushing the organization forward toward positive outcomes and excellence.

In the past, we’ve leaned into our Core Values to help us navigate tensions. For example, suppose two people disagree on what strategy to pursue in a given situation. In that case, we might lean on our Core Values of Positivity (and Assume Positive Intent), Communication, and Being an EcoAlly to help those two people navigate the conflict, share their perspectives, listen with an open mind and heart to their colleague, and make the decision that is most rooted in “what is best for the planet and for the customer?”

While this approach has been successful (and is one we will continue to use ongoing as our Core Values are a tremendous part of who we are and how we operate), we also made the decision this year to invest in a formal program around the DiSC assessment for the entire company.

This wasn’t an obvious decision or investment for us to make. Like many people, I’ve gone down rabbit holes of personality assessment in other groups and organizations and have always come out of these processes a little frustrated. The personality tests often seemed contrived and limited, with the potential to pigeonhole rather than elevate a person. And in a few weeks, I often forgot whatever the assessment told me about myself - let alone the rest of the team members.

These prior experiences led us to opt for DiSC in a sea of dozens of personality tests out there.

In researching options, we learned that (1) the simplicity and intuitive nature of DiSC makes it the one most often recalled and leveraged by team members even years after it is first administered, and (2) it seemed to have the most relevance in terms of addressing the particular conflicts our team members find themselves in.

The investment has proven to be a tremendous one for our team and individual team members. We each learned how the strength of our specific profile can support our success and how, when taken to more extreme levels, the predispositions within our profiles can hold us back, turn others off, and get in the way of fruitful collaboration.

More importantly, we understood how to lean into each other’s profiles to maximize our collective impact. I now believe that a “D” (Dominance) and an “S” (Steadfastness) working beautifully together will outperform two “Ds” or two “Ss” anytime.

It also became clear in this process that:

  • DiSC (or any personality test, for that matter) should never be used in the hiring process. We’ve realized that a person’s profile says nothing about how successful they can be in a role, and it only scratches the surface of understanding a person.
  • It is easy to make the mistake of using your profile as a sword (i.e., “I am a D, and my bias towards action is better than your bias for consensus building”) or a shield (i.e., “I am a C so I should not be given work that doesn’t lean into organizations and systems building”). Doing so is unproductive and not how DiSC is intended to be used.

The assessment, workshop, and continuous discussion and training we have around DiSC have gone a long way in helping each of us work together more effectively.

Running a business with your spouse can be rewarding with ground rules and processes in place

Kyle and I have been together for over twenty-three years, married for over fifteen years, raising children together for almost ten years, and running EcoEnclose together for eight years.

One of our most frequent questions is, “What is it like working with your spouse?”

These days, my response is something like, “I can’t imagine what it is like not working with your spouse.” Sure, there are a lot of challenging aspects of working together - not getting space and distance from each other, the extra fluidity between work and life that this situation leads to, the fact that our financial stresses are all wrapped up in the same entity together, and the difficulty of taking any real extended vacation as a family since it means both the President and the CEO are gone at the same time.

But I’ve come to appreciate a lot of this situation as being uniquely wonderful. There is someone at work who cares deeply about me as a person and vice versa. I think we both know and appreciate each other as whole individuals more so than we would if we worked separately and didn’t get to see each other shine outside of our roles as parents and spouses.

If I get home after having a great day, it is so easy to celebrate the wins. If I get home after having a terrible day, I don’t have to share too much context and backstory. If I want to hash out something from work at the dinner table, I can, and it's typically a welcome conversation versus someone getting frustrated that I want to talk about things they know little about.

The second question people often ask is, what tips do you give other couples working together? I don’t have many, but here are a few I’m learning:

  • Put your marriage first, your parenting second, and your business third.
  • Have a single decision-maker for each unique topic. It is impossible to reach a consensus on most things, but when you’re a couple at work, it can be easy to think you should be able to achieve this. Know who is in charge of decision-making and execution going into a discussion and proceed accordingly.
  • A lot of people harp on “setting boundaries.” But really, that is impossible. You will inevitably have to figure some work stuff out at home and some home stuff out at work. Embrace the lack of boundaries as a positive thing instead.
  • Over-invest in creating alignment. Have weekly meetings to align on strategy. Have weekly meetings on your home life.
  • Giving and receiving feedback to your work partner, who is also your spouse, is more fraught with landmines than giving and receiving feedback from others because each exchange carries two decades of relationship baggage. Unfortunately, we tend to be lazier when giving and receiving feedback to our partners. While I prep in advance for a feedback session with anyone else, I often skip this step with Kyle and dive in, assuming that it should be easy since we know each other so well. The opposite is true!

It’s been a tough year of climate change, but staying focused on positive wins helps motivate action

It is alarming how quickly we have moved from “Climate change is something we need to prevent or prepare for” to “Climate change is here and we are experiencing its immediate and direct impacts right now.”

It is easy for me to sink into a spiral of despair and negativity, and my media diet certainly doesn’t help.

At the same time, it seems more critical than ever to actively avoid despair and the inaction this can lead to - and instead to seize the opportunity to make a positive impact, celebrate climate victories and see this moment as our collective responsibility to do better going forward.

So, I now take some time each week to seek environmental wins. At first, I worried that this approach would feel like sticking my head in the sand or someone naively trying to adopt a positive mindset in the face of overwhelming evidence that we should be nothing but negative. However, after a few weeks of actively seeking out climate wins and positive news stories, I was struck by how many there were and how quickly they shifted my mindset to one of positive action.

Here are just a few I came across this year.

  • The world was set on a track for emissions from the power sector to peak in 2023. Energy from renewables like wind and solar grew faster than the world's power demand did, which means emissions from the sector were predicted to edge downward for the first time.
  • The ozone is projected to heal by around 2045 over the Arctic, 2066 over the Antarctic, and 2040 for the rest of the world. The Montreal Protocol adopted in 1987, where countries pledged to phase out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, is paying off.
  • The Global Methane Pledge, which promises to cut methane by 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030, could avert 0.2 degrees Celsius of warming (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050.
  • Infrared cameras enable a Swedish factory to sort more plastic than anywhere else. The ‘Site Zero’ plant in Motala is being billed as the biggest of its kind, capable of sorting up to 20,000 tonnes of plastic packaging a year. It’s not simply size but cutting-edge technology that makes this feat possible. Infrared red cameras separate the tide of waste arriving at the factory gates into 12 different types of plastic.
  • EV growth has been impressive worldwide, with electric cars making up 33% of all new sales in China in the first half of 2023, 35% in Germany, and 90% in cold and snowy Norway. In the U.S., more than a million EVs were sold in the first 11 months of 2023 — 9% of all new cars. In California, 25% of new car sales were electric.
  • Dams along Oregon and California's Klamath River have significantly reduced salmon populations. After decades of campaigning, the first dam was demolished in November 2023 – one of three that will be removed over the years in the largest dam removal project in American history.
  • After decades of negotiations, countries have finally agreed to a treaty to protect the world's oceans that lie outside national boundaries. Until now, just 1% of these waters have been protected. The High Seas Treaty provides a framework for setting up marine protected areas, a crucial step to fulfill aims to preserve 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.
  • The European Union is stopping imports of commodities and products linked to deforestation, in a move campaigners described as groundbreaking. Other hopeful forest news came from Brazil, where the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest dropped sharply.
  • And, of course, the final COP28 agreement, agreed by almost 200 countries, for the first time included a goal to move away from fossil fuels.

As I always feel at the end of a reflection session like this, I am immensely grateful for the year we've just had, what we've experienced, and how much we've grown. Even more, I am so anxious and excited for 2024 and for the opportunity to bring a new level of empathy, community and action to our work going forward.