February 9, 2024

Policy Expert Takes Stock of Global Trends Over the Next Five Years

Between now and 2028, there are five grand challenges on the minds of global thought leaders: biodiversity loss, industrial policy, rapid transit, the value of e-waste and digital twins.

These issues were at the forefront of discussion with Erik Peterson, partner and managing director at Kearney's Global Business Policy Council, a strategic advisory service for business and government leaders, during the latest Distinguished Speakers in International Business Series (DSS) event hosted by the Center for Global Business at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024.

With multiple events annually, the Distinguished Speakers in International Business Series brings together policymakers, industry leaders, academics and students to present and discuss emerging trends in international business. Peterson, also a CGB advisory board member, drew the examples from Kearney’s recent Global Trends Report, which regards them as issues that will profoundly shape the global outlook and business operating environment over the next five years.

“We will succeed or fail depending on how well we take on the future, and innovation is where it all happens,” said Peterson. “That’s where I’d love to see younger generations sink their teeth into the big problems and come up with new approaches and ideas. Maybe one or many of you will meet that goal. I hope you do.”

Join us for an enlightening discussion with Erik Peterson, Partner & Managing Director at Kearney, hosted by the Center for Global Business. Discover the critical insights from 'A Convergence of Acute and Urgent Threats,' a Kearney report unveiling the five major trends shaping the global landscape from 2023 to 2028. From climate change adaptation to the impact of AI on politics, gain valuable perspectives on the challenges ahead. Don't miss this opportunity to delve into the future of global business.

Here are Peterson’s thoughts on each of the discussed trends:

Biodiversity – Environmental loss carries economic costs. A World Bank report cited by Kearney suggests that degrading ecosystems could trigger a downward spiral of roughly $2.7 trillion in annual global output by the decade's end. Peterson points to negligence and inaction toward biodiversity as contributors to current environmental conditions. That must change moving forward, he said. “We've just put together a major treaty on protecting biodiversity, but we don't see the ratification by national governments that we'd like to see, including the big one close to here. That will have a big effect ultimately on how rapidly we can address the program.”

Industrial Policy – It’s a free-for-all out there. According to the Kearney report, post-pandemic industrial policies address challenges like the “growing reliance on critical resources, the need for clean energy,” and the development of advanced technologies such as AI. The ripple effect of these policies could result in geopolitical tension, with countries rethinking their economic relationships to localize manufacturing and protect their industries in the name of securing sustainable economic growth. “I think that this industry policy is likely to intensify in the years ahead,” said Peterson. “It will become more and more difficult for us to continence international trade and investment.”

Rapid Transit – Time to get moving…quickly. Kearney is keeping its eyes on rapid transit over the next five years, especially as the core car fleet transforms from fossil fuels to electricity. It’ll be examining the impact of increasing mobility efficiency. “Flying cars, hyperloops and other innovative rapid transit systems, we believe, are likely to take on new momentum in the years ahead,” he said.

E-waste – Trash-to-treasure opportunities. There are over 53.6 million metric tons of discarded electrical equipment—phones, computers and TVs—in the world today. That’s equivalent to roughly 5,300 Eiffel towers, as noted by Kearney, and e-waste generation could grow to approximately 74.7 metric tons over the next six years. Properly discarding these products can help reduce exposure to toxic substances detrimental to human health. There is also massive potential for economic returns and manufacturing savings from recycling. “This is a very significant challenge, but by the same token, it’s a great opportunity,” said Peterson. “We think there is somewhere north of $60 billion involved in dealing with e-waste. It will be a critical element in the future.”

Digital Twins – A valuable copy. Digital twins are precisely what one would expect based on their name—digital representations of products, infrastructure or processes used for simulations and testing. The advancement of artificial intelligence and computational capability has helped extend the technology’s application to supply chain management, manufacturing, weather forecasting and diagnosing diseases. However, increased use of digital twins may also require greater cybersecurity and data management measures. “Think of how you deal with your day here at the Smith School and create a twin that you can use to stress test,” said Peterson. “On the one hand, you can work the bugs out of all kinds of things, but you can imagine on the other that they carry significant risk.”

The DSS is supported by the Title VI CIBE grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education to foster international understanding and promote the ability for U.S. businesses to compete globally. 

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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