2030: A "Perfect Storm" of Global Resource Shortages

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2030: A "Perfect Storm" of Global Resource Shortages

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 3:05pm

CONTENT: Article

Corporate leaders give themselves a lousy grade on their efforts to develop sustainable supplies of natural resources strained by a growing global population and a rapidly expanding middle class of consumers.

With demand for everything from food and water to rare earth minerals expected to continue to rise, companies and governments are increasingly undertaking a variety of efforts to develop a more sustainable supply chain, one of the topics highlighted at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting.

Among other projects, the Clinton Global Initiative last year helped launch Sustainable WasteResources International to tackle the health and environmental impact of billions of tons of waste produced worldwide.

(Read more: Clinton Global Initiative is 'mobilizing for impact')

This year's week-long conference will bring together more than 1,000 global leaders—some 60 current and former heads of state, including President Barack Obama, along with NGO and philanthropy leaders from over 70 nations— to brainstorm ways to head off increasing strains on the natural resources that keep the global economy on track.

They have a lot of work ahead of them, based on the main finding of a recent survey conducted for the U.N. Global Compact, the world's largest corporate initiative to develop a more sustainable global economy. The survey of more than 1,000 CEOs across the world—the largest of its kind ever conducted— found that two-thirds believe the global economy is not on track to meet the demands of a growing population.

Despite wider awareness of the need to adopt sustainable practices "business efforts on sustainability may have plateaued," according to the report, conducted by Accenture and released Friday.

In the short term, the tough economic climate has made it more difficult for businesses to justify these investments. But the long-term outlook hasn't changed, according to Craig Hanson, director of the People and Ecosystems Program at the World Resources Institute. 

(Read moreA hungry world: Lots of food, in too few places)

"The outlook does look dire for many types of natural resources if we continue on the status quo," he said. "The tough issue is that many of the places that face those resource constraints don't have the technical or human capacity to adjust and deal with an acute shortage."

But corporate CEOs report that they're having a harder time justifying the investment in overhauling their supply chains to promote sustainability. "Signals from consumers are mixed" and "investor interest is patchy," according to the U.N. Global Compact study.

The CEOs also say that for these efforts to succeed, both businesses and governments need to collaborate better to apply solutions across industries and sectors. Both also need to better share the financial impact.

Global businesses may also feel less urgency to advance sustainability at a time when sluggish economic growth has eased the upward pressure on supplies of raw materials and commodity prices. Ongoing advances in supply chain management also may have sparked hopes that future technologies may help head off looming resource crises. 

German software giant SAP, for example, is among a broad range of companies helping businesses and governments apply new processes and technologies to squeeze more efficiency out of a variety of resource supply chains. Rapid advances in data analytics, for example, are helping track down and reduce waste. 

Continue reading the orginal article and learn more about SAP participation in the Clinton Global Initiative on CNBC >>

Original post on CNBC.

Keywords: Business & Trade | CGI | Clinton Global Initiative | Health | SAP | Sustainable WasteResources International | environment | sustainability

CONTENT: Article