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Sust staainable consumption and the Four urtth Industrial Revolution Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, USA, ponders how nations can develop without damaging the environment and widening inequalities So far, economies and businesses have benefited from cheaper and better imports and improvements in efficiencies in production. And growth has come from selling at a greater scale and has been achieved through volume. Unfortunately, in the past 50 years, 60% of the earth’s ecosystem has been depleted and natural-resource consumption is expected to rise by three to six times by 2050. The population is expected to reach over nine billion people by 2050 and the global middle class is expected to triple by 2030. With this in mind, how long can we sustain this development model without further damaging the environment and aggravating existing inequalities? The Fourth Industrial Revolution will provide some of the solutions, with a further increase in the efficiencies of the value chain through data analysis, robotics, sensors and 3D printing. We are already seeing the impact that this revolution is having on business and society. Previously, there was a greater incentive for companies to always produce more to decrease the cost of each product as quantity increased, but huge gaps between forecasting decisions and consumer demand create an estimated 30% waste in all manufactured goods.


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There is waste created at every step of the supply chain: the energy used to produce and ship the goods, the packaging and the waste of land in the landfill. 3D printing and today’s hyper-connected consumers will help bridge this gap. Avery Dennison, a packaging and labelling company, has come together with Evrything, a London-based internetof-things start-up, to create over the next three years a web identity for over 10 billion pieces of apparel. This partnership will enable companies to track products for supply-chain purposes and to decrease waste. It will also empower customers to check the manufacturing history of these products and provide them with recycling options. The possibilities of combining recycled materials and high fashion were highlighted by actress and campaigner

“Huge gaps between forecasting decisions and consumer demand create an estimated 30% waste in all manufactured goods.”

Emma Watson who, at this year's Met Gala, wore a gown made from recycled materials and organic cotton to promote the Green Carpet Challenge (a platform pairing glamour and ethics to raise the profile of sustainability, ethics and social welfare). But these technological advances are only one part of the equation: the consumer will also need to re-evaluate their lifestyle and their environmental, social and economic impact. They will need to assess how they choose and use products and services. Even as consumers demand better accountability from companies, few change their own consumption patterns. This demand seldom translates into sustainable consumption. Most consumers are blocked by availability, affordability and their own scepticism. Transparency offered by technology and consistent and effective customer service can alter the public perception about green claims. These barriers are slowly being broken down by companies incorporating data and analysis provided by this new industrial revolution. They are producing better products with maximum societal value and minimizing environmental cost. Nike is such a company, the Nike Flyknit Lunar 1+ design reduces waste by 80% compared

Making It: Industry for Development #21  

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mark a radical change in the way the world addresse...

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