Mark Tercek at the World Economic Forum: Part 2

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Published on January 28th, 2011  |  Discuss This Article  

Mark Tercek, the Conservancy’s president and CEO, is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. Each year the forum brings together hundreds of the world’s top business, government, academic and civil society leaders to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities facing society today.

Among the areas of focus in Davos are how to sustain economic growth, mitigate global risks, promote health for all, improve social welfare and foster environmental sustainability.

Mark was invited by the forum to join various discussions on rethinking natural resources and how to sustainably meet society’s growing demands for food, water, land and other development needs. Below is the second post he wrote for the World Economic Forum blog.

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There has been a lot of discussion in Davos about the growing scarcity of natural resources and the impact it is having on businesses and society as a whole.

Everyone here recognizes that the world’s expanding population is creating demands for food, water and other resources that far outweigh what nature can provide. Likewise, there is consensus that climate change is making the situation even worse.

Chaotic weather such as heat waves in Russia is devastating wheat crops, while floods in Australia have damaged fruit and vegetable production.

Indeed, today in the publicly-traded commodity world we see food prices at or above the (riot-inducing) levels of 2008. It’s the same for the fast-rising oil and mineral prices.

But rising market prices are not the only reason to be concerned about dwindling resources.

Global deforestation is contributing to floods, sedimentation and damaging run-off that pollutes rivers and oceans. More than half of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited and another 25 percent face serious threats. Nearly two-thirds of the services nature provides around the globe—fresh water, fisheries, fertile lands—are being degraded.

But there is good news. Businesses increasingly understand that their success depends on these natural resources. They are beginning to think of these resources as “natural capital,” critical to their bottom line.

These business leaders see the threats that lie ahead and they are acting now—rather than waiting for government intervention and regulation. They are also beginning to partner with NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and others to develop innovative solutions that are good for both business and nature.

The Nature Conservancy and Dow Chemical, for example, announced this week a new partnership aimed at changing the way businesses view nature and the footprints they leave behind. Together, we will spend the next five years testing strategies at different Dow locations to demonstrate how protecting nature can be a global business strategy and a corporate priority.

Coca Cola and Pepsi—knowing their businesses rely on clean water from local lakes and rivers—are working with us and other NGOs to measure water use, create strategies to reduce use and invest in conservation of watersheds and other resources to ensure continuing supplies for both their operations and local communities.

And the International Council on Mining and Minerals has adopted the position that companies should use offsets to achieve net-benefits for biodiversity in their mining projects. They understand that environmentally friendly practices can build investor confidence, community trust and consumer loyalty while also providing access to capital from the growing number of banks who follow sustainability guidelines.

It is important that companies who are taking steps to conserve natural resources share their knowledge and lessons learned, so others can follow suit. Ultimately, all businesses must learn to produce more with less as they work to meet the growing needs of society.

There is a lot of opportunity to collaborate with various participants at Davos to make more of these things happen. I’m enjoying meeting innovative business leaders and discussing these kinds of strategies.

Read Part 1 of Mark’s blog from the World Economic Forum.

(Image: Mark Tercek. Image credit: Erika Nortemann/TNC.)

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