Paris, France, 18 November 2016– Scientists, industry-leaders
and policy-makers gathered in Paris today to discuss the economic potential of
resource efficiency, as well as its role in limiting global warming and putting
the world on a more sustainable, equitable development track.

The event was part of UN Environment’s ongoing
dialogue with business to address environmental sustainability.

In his opening remarks, Erik Solheim, Head of UN
Environment, said the world had shown that it was able to solve environmental
issues, but it could not do this without business. “All the practical
solutions will happen in business,” he said.

“There is universal recipe for success with three
elements – citizen engagement, government engagement and the enormous ability
of the private sector to turn around, find new products and innovate. We need
to unleash these qualities of the private sector – and let’s do this

John Danilovich, Secretary General of the
International Chamber of Commerce, said ICC was committed to responsible
business conduct. He said the business vision for progress comprised three key
concepts: innovation, collaboration and regulation.

“Businesses are already innovating to develop the
technological, organizational and financial solutions needed to achieve
resource efficiency but to scale up these solutions we need enhanced
collaboration between business and, just as importantly, between the public and
private sectors.,” he said.

Laurent Tapadinhas, Deputy Commissioner General,
Ministry of Environment, Energy and the Sea, said France was very receptive to
the messages of the International Resource Panel. He said France wanted to be a
laboratory for “decoupling”, a term used by the International
Resource Panel to describe the breaking of the link between rising economic
growth and harmful environmental impacts.

But, he said, “Support is needed to bring science
into the design of policies, and support to explain to stakeholders the
challenges ahead and how they can be handled in the best possible way.”

“Science, working together with population,
businesses and government creating enabling environment, can achieve greater
resource efficiency, to the benefit of all,” said Emmanuel Normant, Vice
President for Sustainable Development, at French multinational manufacturer

Pascal De Petrini, Executive Vice-President, Strategic
Resource Cycles at the French food products multinational Danone, said the
company wanted to work in a circular economy way to manage milk, water, and

He also supported greater collaboration. “It
makes sense to collaborate directly on the ground, but also with suppliers,
NGOs, local communities, and with global organizations, like UN or EU
– because without that collaboration we will not move the needle in a way
that is efficient enough.”

The 120-strong
gathering heard that a recent report of the International Resource Panel, an
eminent group of resource experts hosted by UN Environment, found that
sustainable management of the planet’s natural resources made sound business

The report, Resource Efficiency: Potential and
Economic Implications, put the estimated potential savings from increased
resource efficiency at about $US 2.9 trillion a year for private investors. In
70 per cent of the cases, the required investment would offer a rate of return
greater than 10 per cent a year.

The International Resource Panel, launched by UN
Environment in 2007, was created to support science-based policy-making on the
sustainable management of natural resources.
Its work has noted, for example,

  • Annual global extraction of materials grew from
    22 billion tonnes in 1970 to around 70 billion tonnes in 2010. For
    example, China used more cement in the three years 2011-13 than the United
    States used in the whole of the 20th century.
  • The richest countries consume on average 10 times
    as many materials as the poorest countries.
  • A third of the world’s soils are degraded due to
    erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction and
    chemical pollution.
  • Some 60 per cent of global terrestrial
    biodiversity loss is related to food production.
  • Effective resource efficiency policies could
    increase global economic activity by around 6 per cent by 2050, compared
    to existing trends, as well as increase employment.

Today’s event, titled “Sustainable Resource
Management: Business Opportunities and Economic Potential”, was organized
by the International Resource Panel, UN Environment and the International
Chamber of Commerce, and was hosted by the French Ministry of the Environment,
Energy and the Sea, and the French Ministry of Economy and Finance and the
Académie Diplomatique Internationale.

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