A sustainable future starts with making real impact on Action2020 Priority Areas

The Priority Areas are planetary and societal challenges that require urgent attention if we are to achieve Vision 2050. For each Priority Area, teams of scientists and international experts have helped us define Societal Must-Haves: goals to be met by 2020. A Must-Have is informed by science, outcome-based, measurable, actionable by business and inspiring.

Climate Change

Since the industrial era, we’ve rapidly increased the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. As a result, we are on pace to raise the global temperature higher than at any time in human history - increasingly exposing us to events triggered by climate change such as extreme weather, receding ice sheets and rising sea levels. And climate change’s effects on complex ecosystems like tundra and rain forests could accelerate warming, putting temperature mitigation beyond human control.

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Release of Nutrient Elements

The world’s growing population will need more food and energy. We’ve met those demands in the past. But in so doing, we’ve endangered our environment, including through the release of nutrient elements nitrogen and phosphorus. These elements make up some of the Earth’s most essential materials, but their presence in excess damages freshwater and marine ecosystems, biodiversity and air quality.

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Ecosystems

The Earth is remarkably resilient despite centuries of human impact. However recent evidence suggests we are devaluing our natural capital at an alarming rate. Current conservation efforts have failed to outpace the negative impacts from human activity on biodiversity. While many of these outcomes are felt locally first, the long-term consequences are global.

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Exposure to Harmful Substances

Expanded global economies and advances in medicine, agriculture and technology have caused a rapid rise in the development and use of potentially harmful substances around the world. While some substances are known to have a negative impact on ecosystems, including humans, we still do not fully understand the impact from interactions between many compounds and the environment. Sound management practices, as well as compliance and monitoring efforts to reduce exposure to harmful substances, are not consistently applied across the globe today.

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Water

Water is one of our most precious assets—sustaining all life on Earth. Water has tremendous economic value for uses ranging from household needs to agriculture to energy and industrial operations. In short, we depend on water for nearly every aspect of our lives. But in a world where billions of people already lack access to safe water, we risk facing major supply issues in the future if our current pace of consumption continues or grows.

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Basic Needs & Rights

Business and society both stand to gain from increased global prosperity. When more people feel safe and earn decent livings, their families, communities and the larger economy can thrive. We’ve made significant progress toward reducing global poverty rates — halving extreme poverty 5 years ahead of the Millennium Development Goals 2015 target. However, one-third of the world’s population still lives on less than US$2 per day and many lack access to the basic needs and rights required to lead healthy, secure and productive lives.

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Skills & Employment

Although global unemployment remains high, companies report growing difficulties in filling positions because of a lack of suitable candidates. Meanwhile, too many labor under poor working conditions and subsistence-based incomes. Creating good and decent jobs for an appropriately qualified labor force will maintain social cohesion, promote prosperity and enable business development and innovation towards a more sustainable future.

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Sustainable Lifestyles

More people than ever are expected to join the middle class over the next two decades because of shifting economic and political trends. These demographic changes are good for individual prosperity but will increase demand for already vulnerable natural resources. Sustainable practices in the production phase of products and services will not be enough to make a significant impact on the environment or human health. Society, especially industrialized nations, will need to alter its attitude toward consumption and ideas of health and happiness.

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Food, Feed, Fibre & Biofuels

From large corporate entities to individual farmers, agriculture helps provide one of our most basic needs: food. Yet, although the industry has grown rapidly, farming yields still fall short of their potential. Hunger and malnutrition remain a global problem, while food is frequently wasted in quantity. Meanwhile, obesity affects more people than ever and the growing global middle class will demand more resource-rich foods like animal products.

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