As I share insights with my colleagues at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, one thing is clear: the world is at a crucial stage in solving global sustainability challenges. We cannot continue to use resources, emit gases, and tolerate the many inequalities that exist in our societies in the same way. Or the world will come to a grinding halt.
Even if we add up all the sustainability programs worldwide from both business and governments, they don’t begin to make a dent in solving our most pressing problems. In order to create a significant impact globally, we need to find ways to solutions. And we need to do this urgently.
As I consider the state of the world today, I see two important things. First, governments are having a difficult time focusing on sustainability issues because of short-term pressures—such as the debt crisis, elections and an economic slowdown. But sustainability challenges are not going to disappear. We cannot afford to let short-term thinking paralyze our actions in this area.
Secondly, business—now more than ever—can and needs to play a critical role in helping to resolve the world’s most pressing challenges. With their unique skills and expertise, businesses are not only well placed to develop solutions, they also serve as powerful agents for change.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Vision 2050 has outlined a roadmap that will enable the world’s estimated nine billion people to live well and within the planet’s resources by mid-century. Along with our members, we are currently creating concrete actions behind each element of this plan.
The next step is to mobilize these business-driven solutions into concrete commitments, while continuing our awareness-building efforts. This will involve encouraging more companies to participate in sustainability programs—but also ensuring sustainable solutions receive the support they need from governments and policy makers.
As we continue our discussions in Davos this week, I would like to call on all my colleagues to prioritize and take action on sustainability issues. We need to work together urgently to scale up sustainability programs all around the world. It’s only then that we can truly begin to make a dent in the world’s problems— creating a sustainablefuture for business, society and the environment.
Peter Bakker is President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Ambassador Against Hunger, UN World Food Program and Chairman, War Child.
Pictured: Municipal workers remove a trolley carrying garbage at Sangam, in the northern Indian city of Allahabad January 11, 2012. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash