The WRF23 Conference Report is now available!

Rethink the value of resources if we are to achieve wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries. This one of the main messages coming out of the WRF23 Conference Report, which is now available online. As the result of inputs from over 75 international organisations, 120 researchers and 150 speakers, the WRF23 Report highlights key policy, business and financial measures across the three focus areas of sufficiency, value chains and digitalisation.

Rethinking Value – Resources for Planetary Wellbeing

The use of natural resources is driving the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change. The current economic model, relying on ever-increasing demand as a driver of economic growth, is leading humanity to live beyond the limits of a safe operating space. The use of natural resources has more than tripled from 1970. If current trends continue, global material consumption is predicted to double again by 2060 (IPR, Global Resource Outlook 2019). Today, resource extraction and processing are responsible for 80% of biodiversity loss and water stress and 50% of carbon emissions globally.

Against this background, WRF23 focused on the systemic shift required to transform resource use into a driver towards wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries. This encouraged us to rethink the concept of value: what we value, how natural resources are valued, and how we can create and fairly distribute value derived from those resources. This entails profound changes to global production and consumption systems, currently locked in globalized linear value chains, which are unsustainable and unfair through the externalization of environmental and social costs.

Three key transitions with a high potential to drive systems towards sustainability

WRF23 focused on three key transitions with the potential to make resources a driver for shared wellbeing within planetary boundaries. Here is a snapshot of some of the main takeaways highlighted in the conference report.

  • Sufficiency: from a consumer to a sufficient society
  • Value Chains: from extractive to regenerative value chains
  • Digitalisation: from growth to purpose

Sufficiency: from a consumer to a sufficient society

The latest IPCC Report defines sufficiency policies as “a set of measures and daily practices that avoid demand for energy, materials, land and water while delivering wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries”. Sufficiency puts the attention on the demand for resources, making it a core element of sustainability and linking decreasing resource consumption with meeting the needs of all. This opens the conversation to issues of social equity, international justice and its role in climate mitigation policies.

"We could reduce global emissions by 2050 by more than half if we consider sufficiency policies"

Demand-side measures are key for sustainability

Without addressing demand considerations, efficiency improvements can result in higher overall consumption, leading to an increased environmental impact.

The climate potential of sufficiency policies

Sufficiency may have a central role to play in global climate mitigation policies, increasing their effectiveness in limiting the rise of global temperatures.

Driving the fair and just transition

Sufficiency is increasingly seen as a driver for fair international relations in the global green transition, leading to the delineation of a 'safe consumption space'.

Unleashing business innovation

Innovation and sufficiency need to be further linked, highlighting the business potential of satisfying human needs while decreasing resource consumption.

A systemic before an individual change

Sufficiency necessitates more than just a shift in behaviours. It requires the development of policies and frameworks that enable behavioural changes.

Value chains: from extractive to regenerative value chains

Current production and consumption systems are pushing planetary boundaries beyond their equilibrium. The transition from extractive to regenerative value chains requires rethinking how resources are sourced, used and moved, and how value is distributed. How can we make this major shift towards regenerative value chains, enabling fairness, resilience and sustainability?

"Currently, the main rule of the game is that the polluter does not pay. We don't pay for carbon, we don't pay for the real costs of raw materials, and we don't pay for the environmental impacts."

Governance of raw materials is pivotal to achieving the SDGs

Raw materials governance needs to be better integrated with the Sustainable Development Goals, beyond a mere association with sustainable production and consumption patterns (SDG12).

There is no alternative to responsible sourcing

A comprehensive approach to responsible sourcing is required. Monitoring and reporting mechanisms should be developed and implemented across global supply chains.

Harness the influence of the financial sector

Strengthening sustainability requirements for financing and enhancing the availability of robust data for informed financial decision-making are critical.

Circular economy is a key solution, but we need to measure it better

Indicators should enable the assessment of the circular transition on key impact dimensions, such as natural resource consumption, environmental pressure and socio-economic development.

Just transition should be at the core, not a nice-to-have

Distributional measures are required to ensure that climate change and energy transition policies do not burden or disadvantage low-income countries and individual groups.

A more equitable value distribution is needed

Policy-makers should set in place policies and processes that empower individuals to assess their rights and partake in decision-making, ensuring a more equitable disribution.

Digitalisation: from growth to purpose

Depending on the purpose with which digital technologies are developed and deployed, digitalisation can be a double-edged sword for sustainability. How can we ensure that digital technologies become a powerful force for sustainable transformation, while managing and minimising the risks associated with them?

"The digital industry, as any other industry, needs to have a purpose. The enabling impact of digital technologies can be an answer to the challenges we are facing in relation to climate change."

To improve sustainability, digital technologies must be sustainable

If not properly designed, digital technologies run the risk of exacerbating demand for resources and becoming high consumers of energy and water.

Enable transparency through open and decentralised data exchange

To be impactful, digital product passport technology needs to be based on open standards, be open source, permissionless and decentralised.

A portfolio of solutions required to combat growing e-waste

Solutions includee designing products for longevity and easier reuse, refurbishment and responsible recycling.

Digitalisation can become a key tool against the triple planetary crisis

Digital technologies can help better understand and protect biodiversity, prevent and reduce pollution and mitigate climate change.

Develop digital governance frameworks

They should address the environmental, ethical and regulatory aspects of emerging technologies like AI, blockchain and IoT, ensuring these technologies are used sustianably and responsibly.

Explore all the takeaways and suggested measures for change

Curious to learn more about the takeaways above? Explore the full conference report, which also includes a list of concrete measures for policy-makers, businesses and the financial sector to make progress towards a sustainable and fair use of natural resources. In the publication, you will also find the summary of some selected sessions organised by partner organisations, a solutions’ corner with inspiring ideas and an overview of all the scientific presentations.

About WRF23

The World Resources Forum 2023 Conference ‘Rethinking Value – Resources for Planetary Wellbeing‘ took place on 4-6 September 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland and online. The three-day event welcomed over 500 participants in Geneva and 1000 online, including international policy-makers, scientists, UN organisations, financial actors and civil society organisations. The event was hosted by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, and supported by main partners International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Empa, International Resource Panel (IRP) and ETH-Rat. WRF23 was organised back-to-back with the UNEP Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals (7-8 September, 2023). The WRF Conference will be back for the next edition in 2025.

Watch the WRF23 Aftermovie

Watch the WRF23 Intro movie

For media inquiries

Emanuele Di Francesco, World Resources Forum