For a century or two, people have argued about whether the world is running out of the things we need. So far, we’re not. (Well, unless you are a farmer in Kansas in need of water.)
Human ingenuity, new technology and market signals have increased supplies and helped us become more efficient. When the price of petroleum rises, for example, companies redouble their efforts to discover and recover oil from out-of-the-way places, like deep under the ocean or in the Arctic, for better or worse. When demand for food rises, so do commodity prices–and yields. When water is scarce, we use it more carefully.
But the fact that Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich of Population Bomb fame have been wrong — so far — does not mean that the world has an endless supply of energy, food and water.
Scott Jacobs and his colleagues at EFW Partners, who manage investments for wealthy individuals and institutions, believe those resources are already becoming scarce–as evidenced by rising commodity prices. EFW Partners (the initials stand for energy, food and water) seeks to invest in a variety of companies that help the world use resources more efficiently and discover new ones, while respecting planetary limits. My latest story for Guardian Sustainable Business looks at EFW Partners.
Here’s how it begins:
In 2011, McKinsey & Co, the esteemed consulting group, provided a modicum of support to modern-day Malthusians. It published Resource Revolution: meeting the world’s energy, materials, food and water needs, a voluminous and influential report. It acknowledged that, until recently, new technology had overcome any so-called limits to growth, but warned of big challenges ahead.
“During most of the 20th century, the prices of natural resources such as energy, food, water and materials such as steel all fell, supporting economic growth in the process,” the consultants wrote. “But that benign era appears to have come to an end.” If current trends continue, governments and companies will face high and volatile commodity prices, unpredictable climate impacts and the threat of political instability if the needs of the world’s poor are not met. “Nothing less than a resource revolution is needed,” said McKinsey, and it will not be cheap: “Meeting future demand for steel, water agricultural products and energy would require roughly $3tn (about £2tn) average capital investment per year [which is] $1tn more than spent in recent history.”
Scott Jacobs, a leader of McKinsey’s global cleantech practice, sensed an opportunity. He decided to help raise some of that capital and to help save the planet in the process. Last year, Jacobs, who is 35, left McKinsey, and joined veteran investors Tom Cain, 58, and Charlie Finnie, 54, to form EFW Partners, an investment fund that focuses on environmentally-friendly ways to produce energy, food and water, as well as opportunities to use resources more efficiently.
You can read the rest here.