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Multiple industries have experienced significant changes in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic caused unexpected disruption in some cases and accelerated existing trends in others.

One thing is certain—the pandemic will have lasting effects on many aspects of our world, and industries will need to adapt. Concepts like sustainability, accountability and social responsibility are becoming increasingly important for investors and consumers alike. Technology will continue to drive major changes and transform the way we live and work. Polarization on key issues will impact business decisions.

Here is an overview of some important trends to monitor in 2021 in five key sectors of the Canadian economy: mining, technology, agriculture, energy, and transportation.

Don't miss our 2021 trends report on healthcare.

Higher ESG standards for mining companies

As prices for gold, silver and base metals continue their trend upward, competition for investor dollars will intensify within the mining sector. During previous mining cycles, having a clear investor message and a demonstrated track record of success was enough for companies to attract those new investor dollars, but that is no longer the case. Investors are increasingly holding mining companies to higher standards, particularly as it relates to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. Mining companies need to up their game. That means incorporating ESG into every facet of the business and providing meaningful goals and targets that show they are committed to the health, safety and communities in which they operate. Mining companies have always communicated their strategy, upside, and competitive advantages to establish trust with the investor community. Now these companies will need to demonstrate good corporate citizenship so investors can trust these companies to operate responsibly.

Dan Weinerman, director – NATIONAL Capital Markets

An ongoing rise in tech company IPOs

COVID-19 has pushed us into the future. When you think about how we live today—how we pay for things, how we communicate and how we work and play—you’ll see that we have adopted technology at levels not predicted until 2025. In 2021, we will see this reflected in increased technology company IPOs. This trend started with the IPOs of Docebo, Dye & Durham, Nuvei Technologies, BBTV and Pivotree—companies in the online learning, document handling, payment processing and entertainment spaces that serve the way we live today.

What will also drive continued financing is that tech IPOs have performed very well since listing, much better in fact than the overall market. This was the first year in the recent past where we have seen such a strong after-market performance from new listings. This is an opportune time for technology companies to enter the public markets. However, to maximize their potential valuation, it’s important for them to establish a strong communications platform that conveys their growth potential and the investment opportunity. A solid investor brand can ensure long-term market support.

Craig MacPhail, group director – NATIONAL Capital Markets

More pressure for sustainability practices in agriculture and agri-food

The agriculture and agri-food industries have been feeling the pressure to implement improved sustainability practices for years; COVID-19 has merely fanned the flames of this simmering issue by forcing Canadians to fundamentally rethink the way they live, their access to a safe and dependable food supply, the health of their families, and how their individual actions reverberate globally. The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) found that sustainability in food is increasingly non-negotiable with consumers, saying they actively seek out food items that use less packaging (55%) or have a minimal environmental impact (47%). Younger Canadians are more likely to look for sustainable items; as their purchasing power increases with age, so too will the demand for these options.

So while the agriculture and agri-food industries work to improve their sustainability practices and adjust to these new norms, they will also need to communicate their efforts to consumers in a clear and effective way. In 2021, competing for a share of the consumers’ attention will require visual, impactful and engaging communications that bridge the virtual divide and resonate at the dinner table.

Meagan Murdoch, director – NATIONAL Capital Markets

The need for balance in Canada’s energy sector

With Canada’s energy sector accounting for over 10 percent of nominal GDP, supporting the oil and gas industry will be critical to the country’s economic recovery. So too is investing in low-carbon energy sources, such as hydro, solar, advanced nuclear and hydrogen.

The polarization among many Canadians on key energy and environmental issues will continue into 2021. As Canada rebuilds the economy, the question is: How can we balance diverse needs and perspectives across Canada and among Indigenous communities? The real challenge in 2021 goes beyond just striking the right balance—it’s about getting businesses, workers, provinces, environmentalists, Indigenous communities and most Canadians to accept that balance. These are the big issues that are vital to keeping Canada moving during our post-pandemic recovery—and to strengthening the ties that bind our diverse country.

Luc Levasseur, vice-president and practice lead, Corporate Communications – NATIONAL Toronto

Urban mobility at the heart of the recovery

Public transit is facing a huge challenge. With work from home likely to continue into 2021, public transportation authorities must deal with a major drop in usage as well as significant financial loss. However, we can still expect public transit to be at the heart of discussions about economic recovery. Public transit projects are crucial to the vitality of our cities, while contributing to reducing GHGs and improving urban mobility. Without public transit, many jobs, businesses and access to services could be at risk.

Public transport must continue to improve and increase their offering. In Quebec, the advent of the Réseau Express Métropolitain, a new link for the Greater Montreal, is excellent news, but other projects will need to materialize as well (tram, extension of metro lines, electrification of transportation). It will be interesting to see what place these projects will take in the discussions in Canadian cities over the next few months.

Edith Rochette, vice-president and sector lead, Transportation and Urban Mobility – NATIONAL Montreal

More from our 2021 Trends Report