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Dr Christos Pitelis, Cambridge Judge Business School: Four meals from anarchy

Themes: Globalisation and international business

Dr Christos Pitelis warns that our current lifestyles are at the expense of future generations and the aspirations of those from developing and emerging economies.

Cambridge Judge Business School’s Centre for International Business and Management (CIBAM) symposium on ‘Securing Food and Water’ attracted views from business leaders and academics drawn together by the Centre’s Director, Dr Christos Pitelis.

The theme attracted keynote addresses by José Lopez, Executive Vice President of Nestlé, and Dr Rupert Lewis, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

Dr Pitelis described the contributions from all speakers as startling for both their general content and vision. He admitted surprise at the unwillingness or lack of awareness and incentives to address the future for food and water.

“There is very little awareness of an incentivised structure in place to address this, but it is a huge issue and it needs to be addressed. The problem is just around the corner and if we continue like this we will have great difficulties.”

Dr Pitelis said demands are now being placed on some of the developing countries not to repeat past and present practice.

“We heard that 160 years ago average life expectancy was 38. Imagine what will happen if the dietary habits of people in today’s developing cultures move towards our own and imagine what’s going to happen when a middle class emerges in the developing world with all the habits and aspirations that we have.

“In some ways for years we have lived at the expense both of future generations and also of the expectations and aspirations of other populations in developing and emerging economies, which means we’re having to put demands on them not to do what we have done so that we can keep enjoying the fantastic lifestyle that we have reached.”

Among the contributors was Dr Michael Pollitt, Reader in Business Economics at Cambridge Judge Business School, who spoke about ‘Markets for Water’ and how water could become traded to the mutual benefit of the importing and exporting areas.

One of the main areas of discussion throughout the day centred on the pricing of water, especially in developing countries where factored into the costs were production, availability, transportation, accessibility and other areas that are not relevant in developed Western nations.

“The thing that is easy to do is to work out the cost of water in particular areas. Working out a cost of one more meter-cubed of water in Scotland versus one more meter-cubed in the south of England would be quite easy. The problem is how you create a competitive market to establish the price at which water would be traded.

“There probably aren’t enough buyers and sellers of water to make sure you get a competitive price so there would have to be some regulatory control of what price actually emerged as a result of the cost differences between say Scotland and the south of England.”

Dr Pollitt added that there are benefits to water trading, but that at the moment these benefits are quite small. Introducing a trading system would in itself be expensive and would be viable only when the benefits exceeded the cost.

Guest speakers also included:

  • Peter Madden, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future
  • Ian Wright, Corporate Relations Director, Diageo
  • Marc Zornes, Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Company
  • Roger Calow, Head of the Water Policy Programme, Overseas Development Institute