By 2050, the global population is expected to grow to a whopping 9.6 billion people. The economy will likely double in size. You don’t have to be an environmental scientist to envision the toll this kind of growth and increased consumption will take on our planet.

Last month at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, I joined with hundreds of industry leaders and advocates who are working to address some of the world’s toughest challenges – from jobs and education to healthcare and sustainability. I was also honored to accept the 2015 Accenture Award for Circular Economy Pioneer on behalf of the Dell team. I’m proud that Dell was among the first to look at products from a full life-cycle perspective and proud of the sustainable practices we helped pioneer.

We are far from alone. Across the globe, in every industry, tens of thousands of corporations are continually rethinking their operations to better preserve resources and protect the environment. Collectively we are making progress. Data from the US Energy Information Agency shows a steady decline in energy use over the past 20 or so years. The Environmental Protection Agency says air quality in the US is improving: carbon monoxide, lead and sulphur-dioxide levels dropped by more than 50% between the years 2000 and 2012.

But is it enough? The changes headed our way require more than incremental progress; they demand fundamental reinvention. We need to de-materialize heavy processes and drive radical efficiencies across the entire global economy. Think about what’s happened in music, publishing, travel and taxi cabs. Entirely new, digital business models are replacing resource-intensive ones. The opportunities in the digital economy for both growth and sustainability are limitless.

 

Innovating for the future

Technology sits at the nexus of this transition. Cloud services and mobile technology already allow us to do much more while relying on shared computing resources. Meanwhile, machine-to-machine communication and the internet of things are radically transforming the way we monitor resources, identify efficiencies and reinvent systems.

Preparing for a future with more than 9 billion of us on the planet is going to require both economic growth and environmental sustainability. Together with our partners, customers and co-innovators, Dell is working to create the technologies that will support both. It won’t be easy, but as the anthropologist Margaret Mead once put it: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” And we are a large group; in fact, a movement. We all share a responsibility to our collective future. I have no doubt that together we will succeed.

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Author: Michael Dell is Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of Dell.

Image: People cross a street in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, which has one of the highest population densities in the world. REUTERS/Bobby Yip