Calls for greater collaboration to enhance resource efficiency and economic growth Sat, Nov 19, 2016

Business leaders, scientists and policy-makers reflect on ways to enhance environmental sustainability

Photo Credit: 3B-the fibreglass company

Paris, France, 18 November 2016 - Scientists, industry-leaders and policy-makers gathered in Paris today to discuss the economic potential of resource efficiency, as well as its role in limiting global warming and putting the world on a more sustainable, equitable development track.

The event was part of UN Environment's ongoing dialogue with business to address environmental sustainability.

In his opening remarks, Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, said the world had shown that it was able to solve environmental issues, but it could not do this without business. "All the practical solutions will happen in business," he said.

"There is universal recipe for success with three elements - citizen engagement, government engagement and the enormous ability of the private sector to turn around, find new products and innovate. We need to unleash these qualities of the private sector - and let's do this together."

John Danilovich, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, said ICC was committed to responsible business conduct. He said the business vision for progress comprised three key concepts: innovation, collaboration and regulation.

"Businesses are already innovating to develop the technological, organizational and financial solutions needed to achieve resource efficiency but to scale up these solutions we need enhanced collaboration between business and, just as importantly, between the public and private sectors.," he said.

Laurent Tapadinhas, Deputy Commissioner General, Ministry of Environment, Energy and the Sea, said France was very receptive to the messages of the International Resource Panel. He said France wanted to be a laboratory for "decoupling", a term used by the International Resource Panel to describe the breaking of the link between rising economic growth and harmful environmental impacts.

But, he said, "Support is needed to bring science into the design of policies, and support to explain to stakeholders the challenges ahead and how they can be handled in the best possible way."

"Science, working together with population, businesses and government creating enabling environment, can achieve greater resource efficiency, to the benefit of all," said Emmanuel Normant, Vice President for Sustainable Development, at French multinational manufacturer Saint-Gobain.

Pascal De Petrini, Executive Vice-President, Strategic Resource Cycles at the French food products multinational Danone, said the company wanted to work in a circular economy way to manage milk, water, and plastics.

He also supported greater collaboration. "It makes sense to collaborate directly on the ground, but also with suppliers, NGOs, local communities, and with global organizations, like UN or EU - because without that collaboration we will not move the needle in a way that is efficient enough."

 

The 120-strong gathering heard that a recent report of the International Resource Panel, an eminent group of resource experts hosted by UN Environment, found that sustainable management of the planet's natural resources made sound business sense.

The report, Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications, put the estimated potential savings from increased resource efficiency at about $US 2.9 trillion a year for private investors. In 70 per cent of the cases, the required investment would offer a rate of return greater than 10 per cent a year.

The International Resource Panel, launched by UN Environment in 2007, was created to support science-based policy-making on the sustainable management of natural resources. Its work has noted, for example, that:

  • Annual global extraction of materials grew from 22 billion tonnes in 1970 to around 70 billion tonnes in 2010. For example, China used more cement in the three years 2011-13 than the United States used in the whole of the 20th century.
  • The richest countries consume on average 10 times as many materials as the poorest countries.
  • A third of the world's soils are degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction and chemical pollution.
  • Some 60 per cent of global terrestrial biodiversity loss is related to food production.
  • Effective resource efficiency policies could increase global economic activity by around 6 per cent by 2050, compared to existing trends, as well as increase employment.

Today's event, titled "Sustainable Resource Management: Business Opportunities and Economic Potential", was organized by the International Resource Panel, UN Environment and the International Chamber of Commerce, and was hosted by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea, and the French Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Académie Diplomatique Internationale.

For more information, please contact:

Moira O'Brien-Malone, Head, Communications, UN Environment Economy Division, +33 1 44 37 76 12, mobile +33 6 82 26 93 73, moira.obrien-malone@unep.org

UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi), +254 715 876 185, unepnewsdesk@unep.org

 
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