The future of the private sector will increasingly hinge on the ability of businesses to adapt to the world’s rapidly changing environment and to develop goods and services that can reduce the impacts of climate change, water scarcity, emissions of harmful chemicals, and other environmental concerns.
From extreme weather events, to rising pressures on finite natural resources, changes in the global environment will increasingly impact operating costs, markets for products, the availability of raw materials, and the reputation of businesses, from finance and tourism, to healthcare and transport.
While the risks are significant, such environmental changes also represent major opportunities for businesses that successfully manage them, and seize the demand for sustainable technologies, investments and services.
These are among the main findings of a new report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), SustainAbility and Green Light Group today, entitled GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector.
“GEO-5 for Business is in many ways a prospectus for the 21st century company-one that internalizes how rapid and accelerating environmental change will shape risks, but also the need and demand for new sustainable products and market opportunities,” said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“The report speaks to the reality of climate change and natural resource scarcities and outlines how more creative decisions by the private sector with longer term horizons may assist in meeting these challenges. It makes the case that whether it be in water saving, or climate-proofing infrastructure, the world is going to look for solutions that in turn will drive corporate competitiveness, reputational risk and a transition to an inclusive green economy,’ added Mr. Steiner.
The new report is based on UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5); the UN’s most comprehensive assessment of the state of the global environment. According to that report, human pressures on the global environment mean that several critical environmental thresholds are approaching, or have already been surpassed, beyond which abrupt changes to the life-support functions of the planet could occur.
Through a detailed analysis of the construction, chemicals, mining, food, and other industries, GEO-5 for Business outlines the specific risks of such changes to each sector, and how businesses can adjust to create long-term competitive advantages.
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