This week marked the convening of the World Economic Forum’s annual Summit on the Global Agenda held in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It’s notable this year that the various Global Agenda Councils (GAC) will be moving more closely together to cross-fertilize ideas and initiatives. Throughout the venue we are reminded of the facts around risks to improving the state of the world.
But, the state of the world is most certainly being threatened by the prospects of what scientists call “The sixth great extinction” into which we have entered. We need to elevate the consciousness of our population that although not as immediately dramatic as an asteroid collision, the crisis affecting biodiversity is major: current estimates are that species’ extinction is 1,000 more than the natural rate. The present patterns of human behavior including consumption, industrialization and transportation, are leading us towards the prospect of witnessing the birth and death of “The Last Panda”. Linear economic development, based on depleting natural resources and accumulating waste in the environment, is not a sustainable business model. Today, most of mammals, birds and amphibians’ existence is affected by habitat loss and degradation. Beyond the panda, many other iconic species such as the tiger (3,500 individuals remaining in the wild), the mountain gorilla (800) or the Iberian lynx (less than 150) are endangered or critically endangered, which means that there is a risk our children will never see these species in their natural habitat.
Circling back to the work of the WEF’s GAC on Sustainable Consumption reminds us that 72% of consumers are willing to buy green, yet only 17% do. And, as is well known across the realm of business and economics, if you can’t measure sustainability, you can’t manage it. So we highlight that the GAC on Biodiversity & Natural Capital argues that 13% of global economic output comes from declining natural resources which raises the pivotal question: How do we ensure that economic growth and biodiversity preservation correlate?
Can the private sector encourage corporate sustainability whereby businesses relentlessly pursue material progress towards a more regenerative and inclusive economy? Can capitalism do its part to preserve the value of the eco-system services of the planet?
At the Global Agenda Councils of the World Economic Forum, we say “yes”.
With greater consciousness and transparency on the issues, a prioritization of long-term thinking, appropriate incentive structures, and the acceleration of capital flows to innovative small and medium-sized businesses in collaboration with the public sector and the many engaged NGOs, we think capitalism can do its share to help find solutions to avoid our bidding farewell to “The Last Panda.”
As mentioned in the “Accelerating Impact” section on page 44, we again encourage our readers to complete and share the WEF survey at http://sites.duke.edu/gacfinance.