Why Rio+20 Matters to Big BusinessPosted by Mike in blog May 3, 2012
So we know the world is transfixed with a fragile global economy and several upcoming elections, but if business leaders want to get a jump on the changing market environment they would be wise to pay attention to the upcoming global sustainable development summit, Rio+20.
In 1992 the UN’s earth summit laid the groundwork for the only international, legally-binding climate change agreement to date, the Kyoto Protocol. 20 years later thousands of political and civil society leaders are preparing to converge on Rio de Janeiro for three days of dialogue, idea-sharing, and inevitable small talk about the state of Brazilian soccer. I had the privilege of attending a conference recently with some of Rio+20’s key players including its Executive Coordinator, Brice LaLonde, and several Brazilian political leaders. While Rio+20 mostly invites politicians and NGO directors, business executives are already forming their own sustainable development strategies.
Regardless of whether or not world leaders renew commitments to greenhouse gas reductions, the following “green economy” market trends are already underway:
1. Public Disclosure of Integrated Reports – annual sustainability reports that publicly disclose the full extent of an organization’s operations including externalized costs such as water use and pollution are expected to increase greatly. Yvo de Boer, KPMG’s Special Global Adviser on Climate Change and Sustainability, called for mandatory disclosure to create a transparent “level playing field” and the Global Reporting Initiative is organizing a “Report or Explain” initiative.
2. Green Financing – as more and more countries come to consensus on climate action, new lines of credit, like Brazil’s $191 million Climate Fund, are opening for sustainable development projects like clean-tech expansion and carbon offsets and closing for fossil-fuel industries.
3. Sustainable Industry Standards – Luciano Coutinho, President of Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), called for more collaborative regulation like the EPA’s fuel economy standards to create a solutions-oriented dialogue with both public and private organizations. Coutinho expressed a need for standards in “so many areas” like the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) that would guide businesses on a more sustainable path.
4. Demand for “small footprint” services and products - even if the developing world achieves sustainable growth, developed countries will still have to cut their ecological footprint by a fourth or fifth in order to stabilize the climate, says sustainable business consultant Pavan Sukhdev. This is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, civil engineers, and just about everyone else to develop innovative products and services that will allow us to thrive more efficiently with less.
Overall the business leaders in attendance seemed receptive to change and acutely aware of the environmental crises taking place all over the globe. However, they acknowledged that without clarity from governments and consumer demand for sustainable action any change would be slow and fragmented. Rio+20 can help both of these causes by placing sustainable development back in the spotlight. From a communications standpoint, we hope the delegation sessions sizzle with optimism and clear solutions.
Who knows? Maybe Rio will capture some of that ’92 magic.
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May 03, 2012
Ha! Only 234 more posts to get to where you are Ed!