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There’s a growing global consensus that we’re at a crossroads on the environment. Not only do we face the increasingly urgent challenge of climate change, but we are also witnessing unprecedented demands on energy and fuel, water and material resource scarcity, huge population and life expectancy growth, concerns about food security, and a growing consumerism in the East that is putting an added strain on the global store of raw materials.
Resource productivity improvements could satisfy nearly 30% of demand by 2030.
Recent rises in global GDP and inroads into tackling poverty have largely been achieved by increasing economic growth. But the resource- dependent models that have allowed this to happen can no longer be sustained. In the past, increases in productivity have often come through more efficient use of labour, but the opportunity for further gains here is limited. To continue to make progress we need to squeeze more out of the resources at our disposal.
‘Resource efficiency’ will become the new watchword of sustainability. Accenture and the World Economic Forum recently produced a report looking at how to make consumption more sustainable by decoupling growth from environmental impact. They suggested that $2 trillion manufacturers of products that worth of economic output could be at risk by 2030 if major global economies fail to respond to shortages in the supply of just one resource - iron (and, more importantly, the steel that comes from it). This demonstrates the scale of the challenge we are up against. Accenture and the WEF conclude that ‘the need for rapid action to shift towards a resource-efficient economy is high’ - and that despite some successes to date, ‘change is now. More positively, greater resource efficiency also creates a business opportunity; it improves productivity, reduces costs and enhances competitiveness. If companies are less dependent on the availability of certain raw materials, they are less vulnerable to supply fluctuations and hikes in prices. This in turn means they can offer customers a more reliable supply of their products.