sustainable development

Recent stories

Reinventing the Asian Tiger

The first day of the UNEP Switch-Asia Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) conference kicked off with all the requisite excitement and enthusiasm that all first days of conferences come packaged with, as the 130 government officials, business leaders, and civil society pioneers congregated at the conference hall of the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. (more…)

The Admit of Defeat in Sustainable Development

Since the end of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the general sentiment on the outcome has not been very positive, to say the least. It has been described as anything from “disappointing” to “a failure of epic proportions.” If there is any optimism to be offered, it is in the voluntary actions taken by civil society and businesses. But an outlook of a collective, global agenda towards sustainable development largely looks grim. Is global sustainable development even possible?

A Tree of Rio+20 Visions

Located in the main conference venue for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the “Tree of Rio+20 Visions” wall displays a collective art initiative organized by WeCanada. Conference attendees were invited to add their own vision throughout the three-day event for “the future we want.” You can see the tree in the slideshow below.

Do They Really Want a Common Future?

I’ll be honest. I was one of those that didn’t have high expectations for Rio+20. If trying to agree with your partner can sometimes be challenging and requires good negotiation skills and patience, I can’t even imagine which kind of super-powers decision-makers and negotiators would need to reach a satisfactory outcome. How can people from all over the world, with completely different backgrounds and capabilities, needs and interests, ideals and understanding of reality agree upon something that might go against their countries’ short-term development and interests? I don’t think there are too many brave leaders that would be willing to sacrifice their political lives for long-term development and progress, whatever that really means.

What to expect from Rio+20?

What is the value of Rio+20 beyond the negotiations? The true value of the Rio+20 conference does not consist of its political outcome. Discussing the political relevance of the outcome document only distracts from the true value of this conference. Conversations and Networking: Connecting the World
We all know Forest Gump. The great and extraordinary man sitting on the bench – alone.  I felt reminded of that situation when taking a break from the negotiations of the Rio+20 conference to have lunch at the park. Not far from me on a wooden bench was sitting a man, eating his sandwich – alone.

Can Brazilians Lead From Greed To Green?

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UN CSD), fondly known as Rio+20, is being hosted by Brazil. Taking advantage of this, Brazilian corporations and the government itself have been boasting their accomplishments from the last 20 years. Their achievements are indeed noteworthy, with stories of growth, innovation, social equity and environmental conservation. Successful Sustainability Case
In 1992, a ground-breaking Earth Summit took place in a young Brazilian democracy that was struggling with hyperinflation, corruption and economic stagnation. Since 1994, the country has managed to stabilize its currency by promoting a business friendly environment.

Back to Discussing the Future

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.

10+10+10+10 = Rio+20 – a Short History

UN Photo

“The future we want” is the claim of the 2012 UN conference for sustainability! While all eyes keep looking forward let us risk a look back into the history of this event to get a wider understanding of what Rio+20 means. Quite obvious that the “+20” stands for twenty years after the groundbreaking UN conference in 1992. But the story goes further back in history. Publicity beats math? – the first UN world summit on sustainability

If we follow the history and the mathematical rule, the upcoming Rio+20 event in June should actually be labeled as Stockholm+40 since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm 1972 is considered to be the first UN conference on today’s understanding of sustainability.

Departing to Rio+20: Sustainability Discussions Back Home at the BBQ

Though, as one of our reporters wrote “scepticism ahead for Rio is rife”, many people – both close and in particular those distant to the topic of sustainable development – have lost any expectation of the outcome of Rio+20. Still there is lots of faith left and we will keep it up and running. Rio+20 is an event that the UN Secretary General (CEO) Ban Ki-moon himself labels as “one of the most important conferences in the history of the United Nations and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to gear the world on sustainable development path”. Those that are only jealous about us being in Rio can go immediately to the bottom of the post and enjoy listening to the song “Girl from Ipanema”. Why at all caring for an event, people believe, which already wasted thousands of working hours of ministry delegates to prepare and protect governments’ interests and distract more than hundred heads of state from more important duties in times of financial crises and geopolitical power shifts.

Watch Out Rio! The World Economic Forum is Changing the Way We Do Business

With the Rio+20 conference right around the corner, organizations, NGOs, businesses, governments are all getting ready to discuss issues in sustainable development and growth. How to make it meaningful? For the World Economic Forum, (WEF) it means breaking the mold of traditional inter-governmental discussions and laying the path towards a new era of global business, global economics and environmental management. An interview with Domic Waughray, Senior Director and Head of Environmental Initiatives at the WEF led me to the deep-seated point of what Rio+20 and the WEF have in common: finding the steps to practical growth and healthier living for the global population. <<Listen to the interview below>>
The way environmental capital is being consumed from population growth and increases in consumption means we have no other choice but to branch out and find new ways of consuming, producing and living.

What do you mean by “sustainable”?


It has become fashionable to be sustainable: More and more companies try to aquire a green identity, products and labels rival for lucrative sustainable customer’s favour. A trendy image certainly accelerates things: More customers encourage companies to develop sustainable technologies, therefore, sustainability policies can be introduced faster.  However, this process is also blurring the topic and the connected ideas because also people and institutions become part of the movement, that do actually not act sustainably. The main cause for this confusing state is nothing else but the complicated definition of sustainability itself. It is not that easy to define this term that is used so often (in this article I’ve made use of it already 7 times). In order to sharpen our image of the concept sustainability I dedicated this article to one famous, possible definition of sustainability and to the consequences that it implies.  This is the definition:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Show Me the Money!!! (For Water)

How can municipalities finance their water projects? The short answer:  taxes, tariffs, transfers, bonds, loans, and grants. The long answer was divulged yesterday by a panel of finance experts who discussed strategic financial planning for water at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France. The crux of the issue was best outlined through a post-panel interview with Richard Torkelson – Managing Director, ButcherMark Financial Advisors LLC and Board Member for UNSGAB. I asked him “How can you effectively adapt a strategic financial plan in countries where the governments are working on cumbersome, if not outdated, laws and policies?” He responded that “the awareness of the need to change has almost gone off the curve.