The US remains the world's largest economic power, although Chinese exports surpassed those of the US for the first time in the first six months of 2006. If everyone on planet earth consumed resources at the same rate as in the USA we would need 5.3 planets to cope with the material consumption, energy use and waste disposal. Unfortunately there is only one. Unless enterprise becomes sustainable there is an inevitability of escalating conflicts and social disintegration resulting from limited resources.

The World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF] has proposed the above ecological footprint measure based on UN data of natural capital exploitation. The footprint constitutes the land and water area necessary to support people’s current lifestyle. It is typically applied, to regions, countries and the planet. Its far from precise but provides a helpful and intuitively accessible measure combining complex information from a variety of sources. Current utilisation of natural capital is 30% above the planet’s ability to renew itself and to absorb pollution. There are wide disparities between different parts of the world with non-OECD countries having a footprint of about one rising to many times that for the most industrialised parts of the planet including the US and Hong Kong. Escalating development and industrialisation in China, Russia, India and Brazil as well as other parts of the developing world will exacerbate an already untenable situation.

Only a dramatic change in the way we use and deplete natural capital will be sufficient to avoid the impoverishment of the entire natural environment and civilisation as we know it. This context provides enormous opportunities for companies specialising in technologies which reduce or eliminate pollution, and for companies that can pioneer cost reduction and consumer engagement through breakthrough technologies which eliminate emissions and pollutant materials.