07/23/2012 10:05 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2012

The Financial Community: Emerging Champions of Resource Management

The speaker list for Re|Source 2012 reads as much like a red carpet line-up as a groundbreaking forum on resource challenges: Sir David Attenborough, Bill Clinton, John Landau -- to name but three.

The conference brought together the critical discussions on how scarce resources such as water, food and energy can be better managed to ensure we can meet the needs of the five billion middle class individuals by 2030. That's no small challenge and this conference itself is an indication of how seriously the issue is being taken, because this is the first time that an event of this level has been held which specifically targets the role of the finance community in affecting change. Indeed, half of the audience are finance professionals with combined assets under management of over U.S. $5 trillion.

Despite suffering something of an image problem of late, the finance community is in a position to be a powerful agent of positive change --- and Re|Source 2012 aims to engage them in finding new ways to manage resources and mitigate the risks of scarcity.

Finance professionals, the private sector and governments have a very particular goal in common: growth. Whether that's growing assets, volumes, profits or social and economic development. And all of this depends on those scarce resources. Like many multinationals, SABMiller sees the growth of the global middle class as a good thing -- billions more people having an improved quality of life -- but to achieve this we need very significant changes in resource efficiency throughout values chains.

Recently, I spoke on a panel that looks specifically at this issue -- how we protect and grow value for shareholders and communities through managing resources in an integrated way.

This 'nexus' is critical to mitigating scarcity risks because water, food and energy are inextricably interconnected. Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of global freshwater use and can pollute freshwater supplies if mismanaged. Water is also used to generate electricity: In the U.S., power generation accounts for about 50 percent of all freshwater withdrawals and drought in countries that use hydropower can lead to blackouts. Energy, in turn, is needed to fertilize and transport crops, which can themselves be used as biofuel to create energy.

Efficiency improvements are always the first step for companies, both within their own boundaries and then with their supply chain partners. But the private sector and finance communities also need to work with governments to address the need to set resource policy in an integrated way, in order to maximize the economic and social value.

By showing how these complex and interrelated forces impact on the future success of their economies, Re|Source 2012 should galvanize the financial, business and government communities to accelerate joint action in this critical area.