The world has never seen economic growth at a rate currently happening in China. Having surpassed Japan in 2011, it’s quickly become the world’s second largest economy and its GDP continues to expand (though ebbing in recent years).
I’m just back from a 10-day visit to China and can attest to this growth. Industrial cranes fill the skylines from Beijing to Dalian to Wuhan, construction vehicles clog traffic patterns, pollution billows into the air. So much that China is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ve all heard stories about the foolish rich guy who blew his fortune on outlandish cars, homes and yachts. They usually follow a predictable path: He experiences a windfall of cash, spends beyond his means and inevitably plummets into bankruptcy.
This story is being played out on the biggest stage of all: Planet Earth. On the whole, humanity is currently on a natural resource spending binge. At the same time, more than a billion people go to bed hungry every night. Until we balance these inequities, we’ll all suffer the consequences – from the price we pay for food to access to clean water.
Maybe it’s all the recent droughts, or severe storms, or basic supply/demand dynamics, but there's a lot of buzz about water risk these days. Alexis Morgan, a global water expert at WWF, is most concerned with the latter issue. Alexis and executives from PepsiCo and Calvert take to the “Wet & Wild: Assessing & Managing Agricultural Water Risks” panel session at today’s Ceres Conference, where they’ll discuss strategies to bring water use back into balance with nature.
Being green in our material world can be exhasuting. Our global economic engine runs on consumer spending. But the more we spend, the more we consume, the more our planet struggles to sustain itself. If we continue gobbling up resources at the current rate, by 2030 we will need the equivalent of two planets to maintain life as we know it.
Reconciling this conundrum may seem impossible. But fear not my material friends, balance can be achieved.
Forget what you know about corporate sustainability. It’s probably all wrong.
Gone are the days of PR spin and shallow words. The new sustainability is about strategic management of natural resources, which are increasingly hard to come by. It has evolved from a reputational strategy to a business imperative. Don’t take my word for it; take the word of the biggest companies in the world.