The Role of the Private Sector in Addressing Resource Scarcity Risk
(Executive Summary)

The Problem: Food Scarcity, Raw Materials, Energy, Water and Land

This paper, the first of its series, reflects key discussion themes among roundtable participants and outside presenters. Here we highlight the key challenges of impending resource scarcity faced by businesses and potential approaches to craft effective solutions. We argue that the optimal solution will be co-created through public and private sector collaboration. Resource scarcity poses a significant threat to companies with supply chains and products dependent on limited resources. The world is facing an unprecedented period of impending scarcity that will dramatically change the way business is done and governments manage natural resources.

Drawing parallels to the Grand Strategy that carried the U.S. through the challenges of World War II, the public and private sectors must develop a unified coalition to bring all efforts to bear in order to develop a solution to address resource scarcity and preserve economic prosperity. The public sector cannot solve these challenges on its own. Similarly, the market will not adaptively respond to the environmental risk that will plague business growth in the future. A supportive regulatory environment can establish the institutions and conditions necessary for the private sector to deploy their market-based strategies.

The Authors
Emily Taylor (’14) and Stephen Ahn (’15) participated in a fellowship coordinated through the Erb Institute and the World Environment Center (WEC), sponsored by IBM. WEC’s Innovations for Environmental Sustainability Council brings together senior leadership from leading private sector companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and universities. These thought leaders discuss the role of business in developing solutions to global sustainability challenges and exchange strategic concepts, data analyses, and best practices. Emily and Stephen were instrumental in developing the content and facilitating dialogue at the May 2013 roundtable on Resource Scarcity in Arlington, VA.