As my fellow reporter Nikolaj Fisher described in his recent post 10+10+10+10 = Rio+20 – a short history, over the last two decades we have seen the world enter a realm of conversations, all aimed at bringing us the future we want. This of course was a large accomplishment – the world was so very different twenty years ago. Regardless of the world’s political complications, we have seen a rise of monumental events begin to bring about a new movement and way of thinking, creating a paradigm shift. In 1992 we saw the UN Conference on Environment and Development. In this conference, AGENDA 21, seen as the blueprint for a sustainable planet, was brought to light.
This post is in reflection of the first day of TEDx Rio+20. My experience with Ted Talks so far is, admittedly, quite limited. In fact, it is limited to viewing videos of classic talks by the likes of Hans Rosling and Esther Duflo. Viewing these videos online of course allows you to pick the ones you are most interested in. On the other hand, you might miss out on great performances by lesser known presenters.
Can Rio+20 promote a rebirth for corporate sustainability? The towering palm trees in Rio’s Botanical Gardens set the stage for yet another event to discuss corporate sustainability in light of Rio+20, the “Sustentável,” organized by the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (Brazil BCSD). Maybe it was the setting, which inspired an elevated discussion on Business and Sustainable Development, that inspired the optimism that businesses can reboot their sustainability efforts. Or maybe it was the realization that corporate sustainability is entering its teenage years and is starting to define itself and stand alone. A famous Brazilian psychologist, Içami Tiba, calls it a second birth, when a child turns into an adolescent and strives to become emotionally independent. There are still many questions for corporate sustainability to answer in order for it to mature. During “Sustentável,” the scrawny teen was asked: How do you differentiate companies in terms of sustainability? How do you measure corporate impact in the local sustainable development? How do you settle the north-south differences in SD? How do you increase prices in times of economic recession? How to reconcile long and short terms? As a teen seeking identity, the first panel questioned the meaning of sustainability.
The objective of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, also called Rio+20 to mark the 20 year anniversary from the first conference in this series, is to secure a renewed political commitment for sustainable development. The landmark Conference also aims to assess the progress and failures in global sustainable development to date. Among the successes are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), among the failures are a lack of an international framework to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. As the largest global gathering of water professionals, the World Water Forum served as an important place to discuss goals for Rio. Sustainable development requires discussions about water in infrastructure, energy production, access, reuse and consumption. A number of panels were organized to facilitate the Rio discussion: Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Ms. Izabella Teixeira, delivered the Keynote speech at one such panel entitled “The Way Towards Rio+20”.