We CAN create a world in which more than 9 billion people live well, by 2050 (2024)

Filippo Vegliois Managing Directorof the People & Society Program at theWorld Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

We recently launchedVision 2050: Time to Transform. It’s a comprehensive framework for business action in line with the urgency of the challenges we face: the climate emergency; nature in crisis; mounting inequality. We want it to inspire companies to seize the opportunities that transformation holds, but also to be realistic about what it will take to drive change at the scale and rate required.

This blog is the first of many that WBCSD will be sharing this year, exploring Vision 2050 in more detail. We’re starting with what it means to live well, within planetary boundaries.

One of the things Vision 2050 provides companies with is a common understanding of what a sustainable future will look and feel like in practice. Drawing from the latest science, a broad range of expert inputs, and close consultation of intergovernmental instruments and frameworks,we have laid outa tangible picture of the world that we can and need to create, where 9+ billion people live well, within planetary boundaries. A future that isn’t just possible, but necessary.

“Living well” meansa world in which everyone’s dignity and rights are respected, basic needs are met, and equal opportunities are available for all.Living “within planetary boundaries” means that global warming is stabilized at no more than +1.5°C, and nature is protected, restored and used sustainably. It also means that societies have developed sufficient adaptive capacity to build and maintain resilience in a healthy and regenerative Earth system.And together, these are the conditions that future business success and long-term prosperity will rely on.

As head of, I’m particularly excited about the human focus that Vision 2050 provides, in particular through its definition of what it means to live well. Vision 2050 lays out, in detail, five fundamental foundations for living well that we need to realize. Here’s a brief overview:

People are free and equal in dignity and rights

All human rights are fully recognized and embedded in societies globally. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are upheld with all states and businesses fulfilling their respective duties and responsibilities.

There is health and happiness for all

Communities all over the world enjoy universal access to nutritious food, water, sanitation, reliable energy, safe and resilient living spaces, quality education, healthcare and social protection. Individuals everywhere are able to live healthy, happy and self-determined lives.

Communities are thriving and connected

Both urban and rural communities flourish. These communities are connected to each other and to essential goods and services by affordable mobility solutions and universally accessible digital and communication technologies.

No one is left behind

People are not discriminated against, and everyone has equal opportunities to advance their needs and interests. The gap between rich and poor has been significantly reduced and, poverty is ended in all its forms everywhere.

People have access to a world of opportunities and aspirations

All people have access to decent and meaningful work that sustains them and their families. Work and living wages provide people globally with financial security, a sense of self-worth, and the opportunity for personal and professional self-advancement.

It is true that a great deal of progress has be made when it comes to human rights, poverty reduction, and access to healthcare and nutrition, and business has played a key role in bringing about these gains. Its products, services and jobs support people’s ability to sustain themselves and their families. Business activity has significantly contributed to innovation, wealth creation, and rising living standards, all around the world.

But an enormous number of people have yet to benefit from the explosion of wealth that we have seen over the last 70 years. More than 700 million people are still living in extreme poverty, over 800 million people are undernourished and there are more that 150 million cases of child labor globally. The COVID-19 pandemic looks set to push more than 100 million people back into poverty and has revealed the reality of widening inequality in society. In recent decades we have seen wealth being distributed increasingly unevenly, with real middle incomes stagnant and the top 1% of earners capturing nearly 30% of all income growth since 1980. More and more people are being left behind.

The narrow focus of our current model of capitalism has encouraged business practices that have widened social and economic gaps. Especially in more developed economies, we are seeing increasingly wide swaths of people that are dissatisfied with their circ*mstances and pessimistic about their futures. Social cohesion is breaking down, trust in key institutions is eroding, and protest movements are gaining strength, even becoming violent in some cases.

None of this is good for long-term business success. Inequality is a great source of risk and missed opportunity: limiting productivity and innovation, constraining consumer spending and growth, destabilizing supply chains, breeding political instability, and jeopardizing license to operate. Inequality also acts as a threat multiplier, making other problems worse, something we have witnessed all too clearly as the COVID-19 pandemic has both fed on and fuelled inequality globally.

Business has an essential role to play in reducing inequality and in generating shared prosperity that can be enjoyed by all. Structural inequality is not a fact of nature but the product of our systems and practices – it is driven by persistent income polarization and wage stagnation; the rising costs of essential services such as housing, healthcare, and education; work fragility; persistent gender and race gaps; failing safety nets; and skewed tax systems.

Business can drive change in every one of these areas and WBCSD will be working with its members to significantly increase action on inequality. We have also just launched a new project to advance global health and wellbeingHealthy People, Healthy Business – which will focus on the role that business can play in supporting universal access to the highest possible standards of physical health and mental wellbeing, and the ways that health is deeply connected to issues including equity and the climate crisis.

These are just two angles through which we aim to contribute to the vision – other themes we tackle collaboratively includeskills strategies for the new world of work; putting people first when it comes to theimpact of technology on how work is carried outby direct employees, contract and temporary workers, and workers throughout the supply chain; advancinghuman rights policy and practice in the agribusiness sector; andzooming in on sector-specific contributionsto people and communities.

Please get in touch if you are interested in hearing more aboutVision 2050: Time to Transformandfeel free to access all assetswe have developed tosupport businesses inmovingfrom vision to action.

We can create a world in which more than 9 billion people live well. But the decade ahead is critical, and every day counts! Join us and our members in accelerating the transformations required.

We CAN create a world in which more than 9 billion people live well, by 2050 (2024)

FAQs

Can Earth feed 10 billion? ›

People have worried about overpopulation on Earth for centuries, and climate change has only recently accelerated that fear. But a new study found that feeding 10 billion people on Earth is not only possible—but it could be done sustainably as well.

How to sustain 10 billion people? ›

However, as we also demonstrate, transformation towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns could support 10.2 billion people within the planetary boundaries analysed. Key prerequisites are spatially redistributed cropland, improved water–nutrient management, food waste reduction and dietary changes.

Will humans survive 1 billion years? ›

But how long can humans last? Eventually humans will go extinct. According to the most wildly optimistic estimate, our species will last perhaps another billion years but end when the expanding envelope of the sun swells outward and heats the planet to a Venus-like state. But a billion years is a long time.

Can the Earth feed 9 billion people? ›

However, there is in fact enough food produced every year to feed 10 billion people. And yet, around 11 percent of people are hungry worldwide, and 98% of that hunger is concentrated in “developing” countries. So hunger is a more complicated problem than sheer quantity, and there is a issue of distribution.

How many billion people can the Earth support? ›

He estimated that the world could support 13.4 billion people. Estimates in the last half of the 20th century ranged from less than 1 billion to more than 1,000 billion.

What year will the Earth reach 10 billion? ›

The United Nations Population Division projects that the world will reach 9 billion people in 2037 and 10 billion in 2058.

Is there enough food to feed 10 billion people? ›

We produce enough food to feed 1.5x the global population. That's enough to feed 10 billion yet we are at just over 7 billion currently. There is enough for everyone. The problem is our food systems – the way we produce, harvest, transport, process, market and consume food.

Can the world feed a population of nearly 10 billion by 2050? ›

By 2050, the global population will reach nearly 10 billion people and global food demand will soar by 56%. If food trends continue unchanged, 593 million additional hectares of land, equivalent in size to two Indias, would have to be cleared and converted to crop and livestock production to feed this many people.

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