Aldersgate Group host a Dragons Den style debate towards Rio + 20

Ethical Markets Sustainability News

Aldersgate Group host a Dragons Den style debate towards Rio + 20

Lisa Cowan, Ethical Markets European Correspondent

in London

Momentum is gathering for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The battle of words for the sake of humanity which I witnessed at PcW’s London Riverside building, 6th May 2012, should hearten the cynics who are concerned that Rio+20 won’t create significant progress.

The audience breakdown was 47% from business, 19% from NGO’s, 12% from Government and 22% other. The questions presented were:

  1. Will Rio+20 inspire a generation of action on sustainable development and green growth? (50% said yes)
  2. Have businesses articulated compelling ideas for adoption at Rio+20 (82% said yes)
  3. Will ideas generated by businesses get traction in Rio+20 (38% said yes – 43% unsure)

The experts commentating on quick-fire 90 second speeches were Caroline Spelman, Richard Gledhill (Sustainabilty & Climate Change, PwC), Sue Riddlestone (CEO, BioRegional), David Nussbaum (Chief Executive, WWF) and Andrew Raingold (Executive Director, Aldersgate Group).

The businesses that sent representatives were:

  • Matt Sexton (B&Q) – Natural Capital
  • Ian Bowman (Siemens) – Circular Economy
  • Josh Henretig (Microsoft) ICT as an enabler
  • Sian Foster (Virgin Atlantic) – Transport Strategy for sustainable energy solutions
  • Karen Hamilton (Unilever) – Sustainable Development Goals
  • Paul Kelly (ASDA) – Food Security
  • Jayson Otke (Philips) – Energy Efficiency
  • Andrew Slight (PepsiCo) – Water Security
  • Steve Waygood (Aviva Investors) – Sustainability reporting

These businesses pitched to gain audience buy-in for the outcome they were most committed to fighting for at the summit. Food Security was voted top priority followed by a move to Value & Maintain The Earth’s Natural Capital with Sustainable Reporting in third.

Of course, each of the outcomes, including water security, energy efficiency and sustainable development goals, are important for the future of our planet.  A stand-out phrase of the night was ‘one planet living’ (current estimate is we are living on 1.6 planets) which came from Matthew Sexton of B&Q.

Another resonant point was to find the way to communicate that the change that each of us needs to make creates a positive shift rather than a sacrifice. For example, if a household replaces all their light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs, their energy bills will reduce as will the carbon they emit.


A united move to a green economy will create new jobs, sustainable investment options and will stop us eating into the natural capital debt we are taking from future generations. The businesses present at the debate are all publically committing to actions post Rio+20.


At the end of the debate, Richard Gledhill shared that a recent survey conducted by PwC revealed that 7 out of 10 CEOs of leading businesses said they would be prepared to ratchet up volunteer pledges if significant action came from Rio — showing that if the world’s leaders can agree on a framework, the world’s business leaders are up for putting it into practice.


Ethical Markets will be sharing significant developments from the summit. Stay tuned for news and ask yourself – what can I do? How can I put into action the outcomes from the summit. Each moment we passively wait for someone else to do something, is a moment wasted  – a moment which puts us into further debt with future generations.  ~ Lisa Cowan