In 2012 the Global Compact raised a lot of attention, as the face of businesses at Rio+20, and consequently in the media. The United Nations body sets sustainability principles for the world’s corporate elite. Only recently the Compact even held a workshop for journalists to be part of the Compact’s advocacy of sustainable business practices, writes Guardian’s sustainability evangelist Jo Confino. A striking call to delve more deeply into the Compact’s strategy. The UN Global Compact’s head Georg Kell, an affluent UN diplomat with a slightly German accent, formulated in a New York Times article before Rio+20 what seems to have been the common denominator of business representatives at Rio+20, “Businesses are more advanced in sustainable development issues than governments are.”
A liberal market advocate, the co-authoring Kell wrote in the same NYT article in June, “Businesses don’t need governments to tell them whether or where to treat their workers properly, invest in their communities, or contribute to the broader social fabric from which they source both their customers and their employees. They can — and should — do these things by themselves.” On the contrary, in an earlier article, Confino wrote, “Kell is anxious to act because he recognizes that the corporate sector is moving far too slowly to deal with the enormity of the social and environmental challenges heading this way.”
With recent voices such as Patrick Haack, a researcher at the University of Zurich, arguing that the corporate misuse and disregard of the Compact’s principles discredited the Global Compact as a vital instrument for private governance, Kell must have put his colleagues at the Compact under pressure in preparation for Rio+20. Mr Haack conducts research in the legitimacy of global participant organizations such as the Global Compact that rally for transnational governance solutions.
I spent two weeks tracking Rio+20 as a student reporter seeking to make sense of the sustainable development talks, listening to ministers, CEOs and scientists who opened up trail-blazing perspectives on changing economic and societal paradigms.
Most media judged it as meaningless, mainly due to its lack of political commitment, but to only focus on this would be wrong. As important was the momentum and narratives it created, which are seeding ideas among the younger generation that may actually change the way they will lead society and the economy in years to come. Rio+20 was a great platform for networking, conversations and knowledge exchange, bringing together experts from all over world to discuss specific topics such as climate change mitigation, social inclusion and ethical finance. The major ongoing impact from the conference will probably come from the world of business. There appears to have been a shift of thinking among corporates towards inclusive growth.
This is the second part in a two-part series on the role of systems thinking in business solutions for sustainable development. Here is part 1. What solution? The Rio+20 Global Compact Corporate Sustainability Forum, which ended on the 18th of June, provided us with a myriad of sessions that showcased the private sector’s best sustainability solutions. In search for the solution that I had promised after Part 1, The Diagnosis, I attended many of them and also interviewed leaders of corporations, NGOs and the UN – all in hopes of finding the solution.
Imagine we had solutions to build a better tomorrow – starting today. The beautiful thing is, we do! Sustainia, the exhibition at the Global Compact’s Corporate Sustainability Forum during Rio+20, shows us a sustainable world that is possible today – by presenting 100 sustainable solutions that are already available. It comes up with smart ideas and solutions for the CEO; the advocate; the engineer; the venture capitalist; and the politician that aim to benefit economic, social, and environmental sustainability. From solar power in Sudan to smart buildings in Sydney, Sustainia presents solutions based on their readiness and availability, scalability, collaborative nature, transformative nature, cost effectiveness, environmental benefit, and improved quality of life.
I am a straggler. Arriving after the start of an event usually raises a few judgmental eyebrows from the back row; however, tardiness is also an opportunity to display character. This is especially true when royalty is involved. Stumbling in late to an event with Her Majesty, Queen Silvia of Sweden, in Rio to open the Social Development track of the Global Corporate Sustainability Forum, takes special flair. The series of events inaugurated by Queen Silvia seeks to re-think corporate sustainability, positioning it on a new foundation of social dimensions and human rights.
This is the first part in a two-part series on the role of systems thinking in business solutions for sustainable development. Here is part 2. For most of us, it is rare to go through a single day without hearing the words “sustainability” or “green” applied to anything from Apple products to Zinfandels. The widespread use and the trendiness of these terms by businesses have evolved them into almost catch-all phrases that seem applicable to any sector. Nevertheless, the underlying ideas and needs are common.
Become a shaker of a new “Zeitgeist” for sustainable development, responsible management education, and corporate sustainability. oikos invites business and economics students (Bachelor to PhD) from around the world to take part in the Student Reporter coaching programme and live blogging at the Rio+20 UN Summit in Rio-Brazil. The training and advocacy programme takes place between 12-23 of June, 2o12 in Rio where we will cover three key conferences and shake and be shaked by the rhythm and spirit of Rio and its global sustainability movement. The Global Forum for Responsible Management Education (14-15 June, Rio);
The Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum (15.-18. June, Rio);
The official Rio+20 Anniversary Summit – UN Conference on Sustainable Development (20-22 June, Rio).