As the world becomes more populous, urbanised and prosperous, demand for energy, food and water will rise. But the Earth has a finite amount of natural resources that can be used to satisfy this demand.
At current consumption trends, technology and proven reserve levels, there could be just half a century’s worth of oil and gas supply available. At the same time, meeting our development needs is highly dependent on fossil fuels, which in turn leads to more carbon emissions and a warmer and more volatile climate. At current rates, we will breach the carbon budget needed to keep temperature rises to two degrees by 2034.
Overall, our economic development model is extending beyond the planet’s capacity to cope and the interconnectivity between trends in climate change and resource scarcity is amplifying the impact. Climate change could reduce agricultural productivity by up to a third across large parts of Africa over the next 60 years, according to estimates by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
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The extreme possibilities resulting from this dynamic are well documented:
But in practice, we expect policy actions will be unpredictable and inconsistent. Policy makers are likely to be driven by short-term reactions to natural events. We believe that businesses must play a leading role in mitigating environmental damage, while making their organisations more agile and resilient to the changes that an unpredictable climate and policy environment will bring.
Sustainability will play a particularly important role in how businesses respond. Corporate Social Responsibility used to be a ‘luxury’ businesses liked to speak about but not anymore. Sustainability is becoming the lens through which a business is judged by its consumers, workforce, society and even its investors.