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Happily, Nature still abhors a vacuum, and into the vacuum created by governments failing to meet their responsibilities on climate change are now stepping more and more cities – as part and parcel of their overall ‘greening’ strategies.
While many companies have embraced energy efficiency or resource management, some argue that corporate leaders must go beyond incremental change and transform their business models. So as Business in the Community (BITC), the UK charity, releases its 2013 Corporate Responsibility Index, the question is whether companies can make the ambitious strategic shifts needed to achieve global development that is sustainable.
To look at the activities of some leading companies, it might appear that the corporate tide is turning towards business models that adhere to the concept of sustainable development, despite what some see as weak government leadership on environmental issues.
Most people think that, in an uncertain world, the one true constant is the reassuring Great British Cuppa. They would be wrong. In the future, our brew, our Rosie Lee, will be more expensive, increasingly imported from Africa, and picked not by hand but by machines.
These are the predictions for Britain's favourite drink in the coming decades by some of the biggest names in the tea industry. An explosion in luxury speciality teas is also forecast, with the traditional builders' brew being passed over for the finest Lapsang Souchong by younger tea drinkers.
When Twitter turned 7 last month, I was struck by how rapidly many new things have become mainstream. Facebook, iPads, eBay, ready meals and all sorts of things that hardly existed 10 years ago are now part of our day-to-day lives. Yet this sort of rapid scale up is just not happening when it comes to solving the sustainability challenges that are also reshaping the way that we live.
Gazing across the landscape of a city like Singapore, you might be tempted to think that you’ve taken the time machine into the city of the future. The buildings are incredibly futuristic, the landscape is dotted with Sky Trees – man-made skywalks housing plants from around the world - and everything zips along smoothly, quietly and promptly.
In many ways, the key cities in South East Asia are emerging as centres of innovation - the beacons of ‘what’s next’. Not to mention that the ASEAN economies are the next big growth engine in Asia, rapidly catching up to India in terms of GDP and projected to grow by 6% between now and 2030.
Imagine this. Tea prices in western markets have soared as most producing countries now consume the bulk of their own tea. Tea plantations are densely planted and highly mechanised, designed to cope with scarce water supplies, expensive input prices, competition for land, and unpredictable weather patterns.
But even this innovative scenario is under threat as radical new technologies take hold. In kitchens around the globe, mini 3D printers allow people to ‘print’ the tea they want at home with molecular ‘patterns’ downloaded from the internet.
Could this be the future of the tea industry?
The Tea 2030 project has been exploring the factors driving the future of the tea industry. Using research gleaned from interviews with leading thinkers and business people from right across the tea value chain, the Tea 2030 working group has identified the factors likely to have the biggest impact.
Despite growing enthusiasm for local products, most of the items that end up in your shopping basket or in your wardrobe will have journeyed through a global cargo system that is as complex as it is carbon-intensive.