1. More from less

From protein to pineapples, the aspirations of a burgeoning population are prompting a rapid rise in the consumption of food, water, energy and other resources. The need to grow more from less includes: more efficient food production to feed a growing and more affluent population; coping with water scarcity (an increase in population equals an increase in water use per person and climate change); and the changing energy mix for production and consumption. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations forecasts that by 2050, 60 to 70 per cent more food will be required to meet demand resulting from population growth (70 per cent) and income growth (30 per cent).

2. Planetary pushback

Climate data tracked since 1900 shows that nearly all the warmest years on record (16 of 17) occurred in the 21st century. Water scarcity and water stress will be a fact of life for almost half the planet’s population. Additional challenges to healthcare and food production will come from bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics and, apart from the direct impact of this resistance on healthcare, food production will be affected by the reduced effectiveness of pesticides and herbicides in the food chain.


3. The Silk Highway

The speed of development of the global economy continues. The growth of China will be outstripped by India. By 2022, India is projected to have a larger population than China. The continued rise of the services economy (and relative decline of the rural and agricultural sectors) in Asia presents opportunities — including trade and tourism — but also the threat of increasingly sophisticated competition in the region.

4. Forever young

The ageing population is a challenge for both governments and organisations. While we’re busy convincing ourselves that 50 is the new 40 and should be heeding medical advice to eat less and do more, organisations are faced with the advancing age of workers (who will retire later) and a rise in the customer population. Governments are faced with spending an increasing proportion of the tax take on health care, which will impact other areas of spending and a retirement savings gap. Obesity is a growing problem.

5. Digital immersion

Some may find it hard to believe that the internet became available in Australia less than 30 years ago, yet there is a new generation that has never experienced life without it. The advice to “work smarter, not harder” has never been more relevant (and important) as business leaders face an increasing onslaught of digital disruption from business models that didn’t exist a handful of years ago. Digital technology permeates all parts of organisations and life.

6. Porous boundaries

Traditional compartments, or distinct industry “silos”, that previously existed are being broken down by the rise of new models such as peer-to-peer, sharing and gig economies (Uber, Airbnb, Airtasker, Freelancer and more). Information about products and services — once the exclusive domain of organisations — can now be generated and shared by customers. Transaction mediums are changing — cash is on the decline and cryptocurrencies are on the rise.

7. Great expectations

For those living in wealthy countries, an increase in income is not leading to an increase in material consumption, but rather the opposite. People seek experiences over products, and social relationships (not just with friends) are more important. This is demonstrated by greater spending on “cultural services” (as measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Research supplied by Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, principal scientist in strategy and foresight at the CSIRO. More information at

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