Category Archives: Presentations

WRF calls for Resource Efficiency at UNCTAD Meeting

Geneva, 21 March 2013 Investing in resource efficiency is a smart longterm strategy for stabilising commodity markets with no regrets. This was the key message of WRF Managing Director Bas de Leeuw who spoke to last week’s UNCTAD expert meeting on commodities and development.

He presented an analysis of the outcomes of the last three WRF’s, respectively held in 2009 and 2011 (Davos) and 2012 (Beijing), which shows the following top 3 policy recommendations: increasing resource efficiency, investing in alternative resources, renewable energy and recycled materials (urban mining), and securing supplies by means of strengthening international cooperation. Download his presentation here (PDF).

901915_10151486259048022_2087717104_oHe also presented upcoming work of the WRF in a 4-year Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) project, together with Empa and SECO (the Swiss Economics Affairs State Secretariat), which will aim at establishing sustainability criteria for non-renewable secondary raw materials.

Participants were interested in circular economy, standards, and resource efficiency concepts, but some stated that these may be less relevant in the case of developing countries. Acknowledging that specific policies may differ according to economic and social circumstances, policy priorities, structural market differences, and knowledge and skills,  De Leeuw said that in general “closing loops and doing more with less might be all the more important when you have few resources”.

Resource efficiency creates space, so that markets can become less volatile and more predictable. He added that capacity building, technology tranfer, also South-South, would be important policy priorities. 

For in-depth discussions on resource efficiency in the context of development one participant called for a World Resources Forum to be held in Africa, an idea which was welcomed by the audience.

The objective of the meeting was to enable commodity-dependent developing countries (CDDCs), in accordance with the Doha Mandate to identify measures in order to secure, as a priority, adequate access to food and energy, use commodity revenues in contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction and cope with the challenges of commodity price volatility.

The meeting was organised by Samuel K. Gayi, Head of the Special Unit on Commodities, and his team.

All information, including background material, program and presentations are to be found on the UNCTAD website, where you will also find the chairman’s summary of this meeting once available (expected end of April).

Our photo gallery (pictures by UNCTAD and Veronika Rekasi) is here.

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Presenting the shortcut to sustainability (video)

Mumbai, January 2012. Opening the Sustainability Series, an employee training program of the Indian YES Bank, Bas de Leeuw, Managing Director of the World Resources Forum, made the business case for sustainability, and commented about consumer attitude and expectations.

In an interactive one hour session for over hundred senior managers of the bank Bas discussed global challenges, such as population growth, resource scarcity and tackling these through government, business and individual measures, aiming at decoupling environmental impact from economic growth. Referring to the increasing opportunities that internet and social media offer he stressed that “there is a shortcut to sustainability, if you don’t, your customers will do it themselves”.

View an 15 minute excerpt here (video, low resolution):

Speaking and moderating at WRF09

Davos, September 16, 2009 Saying goodbye to UNEP and saying hello to Dana Meadows’ Sustainability Institute, where he had been appointed Executive Director on September 15, 2009, Bas de Leeuw addressed the opening session of the World Resources Forum. He said that the World Resources Forum, like the Resource Panel, is “walking on the bridge between science and policymakers.”

“Policymakers and politicians want ‘consensus’, ‘proven methods, grounded in solid science’. And if there is any remaining doubt, or if there is anything that is not yet measurable, this can be used as an excuse for non-action, as we have learnt from the Climate Change debates. At the other hand, scientists love diversity, disagreements, debates,  they adore proving that the other one is wrong. Their passion goes into continuous improvement and fine-tuning of their analyses. And that is all very fine. However, sometimes one would like to have some sort of consensus, even if not everything is fully understood, at least some direction of the way to go.”

The issue of ‘policy relevance’ is a challenge, he said. “Governments – how strange that may sound – are in general not fond of policy advice, not even if this is coming from the world’s best scientists. Rather they want to receive ‘policy relevant’ reports … and draw their own conclusions. It is like a patient who does not want the doctor telling him to lead a healthier lifestyle: eat better, exercise more, quit smoking … he does not want to hear it, and if the doctor insists he will go to another doctor. Imagine you are such a patient, feeling ill, not really knowing what is the matter … wouldn’t you rather want to know exactly what is wrong with you and get the best advice to cure? As soon as possible?”

Bas de Leeuw went on by acknowledging the founder of the Sustainability Institute, Dana Meadows, who died in 2001, and who has written about limits to growth, and “was showing how the world could do better, choose other paths of growth. We would now call this ‘decoupling’.”

“But she also dared to write about resources without any limits: creativity and love. Those resources are not scarce, rather a huge untapped potential, and each of you here have these resources in abundance. Please use them as much as you can without any restriction for the sake of our planet, for mankind and for yourself.”

UNEP also organised a briefing on progress made with the International Resources Panel. Read here the student reporters’ findings about the briefing and about the moderator’s style.

Discovering the world behind the product

“It is becoming more and more evident that consumers are increasingly interested in the world that lies  behind the product they buy. Apart from price and quality, they want to know how and where and by whom the product has been produced. This increasing awareness about environmental and social issues is a sign of hope. Governments and industry must build on that.”

My most widely quoted statement, first written for Klaus Toepfer in a press release about the Life Cycle Initiative (23 August 1999), then included in the chapter I wrote in Sustainable Solutions, with Nick Robins, published by Greenleafs in 2001, and later referred to in my Journal of Industrial Ecology column in 2005.

And put on a slide, in various formats and colours (talking about recycling!) the underlying message was used at numerous occasions in speeches and workshops throughout the years. It has proved to be a powerful quote which brings the message across that sustainable consumption has to be a common goal, to be brought about by not only consumers, but also and maybe foremost by business and governments.

Therewith the quote was used for both the development and promotion of the Sustainable Consumption Programme, including the Advertising Initiative, as the Life Cycle Initiative.

Read the UNEP press release (August 1999)

Order Sustainable Solutions article or read here (Robins and de Leeuw 2001, p. 52)

Download abstract of the Journal of Industrial Ecology column (2005)

Download full article (PDF) of the Journal of Industrial Ecology column (2005)