Last week’s Icelandic
volcano eruption has reminded us that there are imminent threats – and
opportunities – which will almost certainly have a quantifiable impact
on global business over the next few years.
These are not scare stories but real issues all
businesses will need to consider very soon if not immediately.
Population. The spectacular growth of
global population is the factor which underlies all the other environmental
debates – but no one wants to discuss it. As far as business is concerned, more
consumers should mean bigger markets and more workers should mean lower labour
costs. However, since modern technology means more work can be done by fewer
people, many of these additional people will find their economic prospects are
limited. How can business provide for them?
2 Natural Resources. Increasing
population puts more pressure on limited resources, including minerals, food
supplies, and water. The last is a
particularly pressing issue. All businesses need water – it is significant that
the Industrial Revolution began on fast flowing steams. Water shortage is now a
limiting factor in the economic development of a great many places, including
huge areas of the western United States, but could be a problem for businesses
all over the world – or an opportunity for entrepreneurs with ideas about how
to use water more efficiently.
The long-predicted energy crisis is almost upon us. The United States has
experienced massive failures of electricity supply, continental Europe is
vulnerable to Russian threats to cut off gas supplies, the United Kingdom faces
a power generation deficit in the next few years, and oil is now being sought
in places previously considered marginal. All businesses are at risk, but there
are fortunes to be made by those with the enterprise to develop new power sources
or better methods of energy conservation.
Catastrophes. Our Statesman
of the Year, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the President of Iceland, has warned
that his country has an even bigger volcano that is overdue for an eruption!
With typical Nordic calm, he advises us not to panic but to prepare now. This
applies to much more than volcanoes. However, it is an ill wind that blows no
good, as they say: even with disasters, someone’s loss may be someone