Key trends that will drive the ESG agenda in 2022

Authors: Richard Mattison, President, S&P Global Sustainable1 | Bernard de Longevialle, Global Head of Sustainable Finance, S&P Global Ratings Co-authors: Bruno Bastit, Lindsey Hall, Lai Ly, Paul Munday, Bruce Thomson

Published: January 31, 2022


Total sustainable debt issuance reached a record high in 2021 and is poised for continued growth in 2022. A key challenge for market participants in the coming year will be to manage that growth in a way that combats rising concerns about greenwashing.

While many large companies set sustainability goals and published ESG-related data in 2021, investors, regulators, and the broader public are exercising greater scrutiny of corporate sustainability efforts.

In 2022, corporate boards and government leaders will face rising pressure to demonstrate that they are adequately equipped to understand and oversee ESG issues — from climate change to human rights to social unrest.


Following the unprecedented market and policy momentum behind ESG in 2021, investors, corporate boards, and government leaders have raised expectations for progress on climate pledges in 2022. Alongside climate, biodiversity, and other environmental concerns, social issues — like diversity, equity, and inclusion and worker wellbeing — appear poised to remain in the spotlight, particularly as they are increasingly woven into broader ESG discussions.

Rising demands for action will likely increase pressure for more accountability, greater regulatory scrutiny, and credible disclosure backed by better data. Below, S&P Global outlines key ESG trends that we think will drive the conversation in 2022. Critically, these trends exhibit overlaps and interactions that will have a direct influence on the prospects for meaningful progress on ESG issues in 2022. As the graphic below illustrates, the E, S, and G trends we have identified should not be considered in isolation, but rather we believe they should be understood in relation to each other.

Pressure will grow on corporate boards and government leaders to enhance their ESG skills.