World Chambers Congress

World Chambers Congress addresses food, water and energy crises

  • 5 June 2009

The challenges surrounding the sustainability and delivery of the world’s food, energy and water resources were the focus of debate among business leaders today at the 6th World Chambers Congress, which has brought some 1,000 delegates to Kuala Lumpur from over 100 countries.

“Part of the problem is that some of these key resources have been mispriced,” said Rajat Gupta, Senior Partner Emeritus of McKinsey & Company and Vice Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce, during the day’s main plenary session, Food, Water and Energy.

“When you allow carbon emissions for free and water for agriculture available for free, you have unlimited use. Proper pricing of these scarce resources and the alignment of incentives is fundamental to proper use,” Mr Gupta added.

While panelists in the session held different views on how these resources could best be managed, they all stressed that an integrated approach was necessary.

“Food, water and energy are three basic securities that are fundamentally linked to each other,” said Jack Moss, Senior Water Advisor for AquaFed, France. “We need to converge on a vision that is more about conservation of the resources we have and renewing the resources that we have.”

Responding to a participant’s point that farmers in developing countries are being denied the right price for their products because of subsidies by other countries, panellist Mike Mack, CEO of Syngenta, commented: “Today, the subsidy system has all been structured around volume. There is not a food volume problem in the world. The subsidies have long out-lived their usefulness.”

Mr Mack also stressed that in many developing countries that so-called “food crises” are primarily due to infrastructure problems, such as the lack of proper roads and bridges, that prevent farmers from transporting their products to markets and the lack of working capital that would allow farmers to have vibrant businesses.

The day’s events also included 12 workshops covering a wide range of subjects from online networking technologies, good governance and women in business to transformational leadership and the ATA Carnet system for duty- and tax-free temporary import of goods.

During a workshop on women in business, Irene Natividad, President of the Washington-based Global Summit of Women, said that in addition to providing more networking opportunities for women, chambers of commerce around the world should organize studies to make the business case for increasing the number of women leaders in business.

“Chambers should conduct studies or urge their governments to conduct studies that provide data on the amount of revenues that women-led businesses generate and the number of people they employ,” Ms Natividad said.

In the session on online networking opportunities using Web 2.0, participants focused on what was described as a set of economic, social and technology trends that facilitate communication, secure information sharing, interoperability and collaboration within enterprises and with stakeholders. The applications discussed included Facebook, Wikis, blogs, Linked-In, and Twitter.

“The only way to understand social media is to participate,” said Sheryle Moon, Director of the Centre for Skills Development in Australia, who led the session.

Participants agreed that people needed to overcome resistance to Web 2.0 and that a change of mindset, particularly among top management, was necessary in order to fully take advantage of the communications and cost-saving opportunities offered by Web 2.0. Chambers of commerce leaders were requested to submit their suggestions to the World Chambers Federation on how it could help chambers facilitate the use of Web 2.0 applications.

Organized by the World Chambers Federation, which is part of the International Chamber of Commerce, and hosted by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, the 6th World Chambers Congress brings together the global community of over 14,000 chambers of commerce. The Congress opened on 3 June and concludes 5 June.