In the coming decades, demand for resources is set to continue to rise precipitously even as supply constraints multiply, posing challenges for economic growth, the environment, and social well-being. Yet many of these challenges could be overcome if organizations were to adopt existing technologies and approaches—and invest in developing new ones—that improve resource productivity and increase sustainability.
In launching McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity, our goal is to serve as a catalyst for action, presenting insights and approaches that organizations can use to seize the opportunity to transform how they manage resources and drive sustainable growth.
Our research suggests that rapid economic development in emerging markets could bring as many as three billion more consumers into the middle class in the next 20 years, raising demand for a wide range of goods and the resources required to produce and use them. At the same time, supply constraints are multiplying. Inadequate production capacity, actual shortfalls, and political uncertainty are just a few factors that could make it more difficult to gain access to many resources. Prices for resources are likely to rise as a result, but they are also likely to be more volatile. And depletion of resources such as water and the planet’s carbon-carrying capacity could cause irreversible damage to the natural environment, in addition to posing threats to quality of life.
But if the scale of the resource challenge is unprecedented, so, too, is the know-how available to address it. Existing solutions could dramatically alter current trends, and many technologies and approaches are verging on breakthroughs that could bring about transformational change. Battery and renewablegeneration technologies are improving at rapid rates, and companies are pursuing business-model innovations that enable them to increase efficiency across their value chains while delivering more sustainable products and services to their customers.
In this inaugural issue of McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity, we offer a set of articles that we hope will inform institutions in the private, public, and social sectors as they rethink how they manage resources. Most of the articles emphasize the importance of innovation, and each contains practical ideas about how to get started.