Where are the green businesses? Report from UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19)
By Martha Shaw
Much of the action at the CSD-19 takes place in informal discussions in the United Nations Lawn Building’s Vienna Café, its lounge areas and during the various side events.
Because the CSD-19 is concentrating on a global green economy, sustainable consumption and production, and related issues, there is more focus on business than ever before.
I was able to catch up with Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum. It was a good opportunity to get to the bottom of one topic that has been on my mind lately. That is, how the pioneers, leaders, local enterprises and entrepreneurs of triple bottom line businesses could be included in the process, as the Member States struggle to facilitate a new global green economy. I asked Felix how green business leaders might help lead the world closer to a global green economy, the goal of Rio+20 in June 2012.
“I think we need to make it more attractive for companies to become involved as we look at the issues through the different lenses of energy, water, agriculture and food security, and cities,” said Felix Dodds. “There are lots of good positive examples where companies are bringing new ideas to the challenges we face.”
“It’s very difficult to represent global businesses in their many different forms. Note that many global organizations that do exist tend to represent multinational corporations. Entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses are less represented without an obvious place to have a voice. But, the approach of the UN is not to exclude the others.”
As background, The Working Group at the CSD-19 which represents business, is called Business and Industry. It is comprised presently of three organizations: International Chamber of Commerce International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), International Counceil of Chemical Associations (ICCA) and the United State Council for International Business.
For Rio+20, the UN has cast a wider net. Originally under the direction of Chad Holliday, Chairman of the Board of Bank of America, a group called BASD 2012 was created as a coordinating partner for business, a temporary coalition of business organizations to ensure that the voice of business is heard in Rio. BASD 2012 is a joint initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSD) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
So, how can other organizations, like the business supporters and partners of the American Sustainable Business Council, for instance have a voice in the negotiations?
The importance of capturing the triple bottom line vision and perspectives, experiences, ideas, innovations, and policy recommendations of pioneering green business leaders would be an essential contribution to the Earth Summit 2012. The Summit serves as an important opportunity and rallying point for the world community to accelerate and scale-up the transition to a low-carbon, more resource efficient and ecosystem-conserving global green economy. This Guardian article captures both the potential opportunity and possible pitfalls that the Summit represents.
At this juncture, the usual global multinationals, through the various industry associations mentioned, are poised to provide the dominant business perspective and input to the Summit on their vision and recommendations for a transition to the global green economy. What is sorely missing are the lessons and the perspectives of pioneering green business leaders and entrepreneurs who have shown early vision, leadership and commitment to transforming the sustainability of industrial processes:
These companies need to voice and demonstrate that their sustainable ‘green’ business models can drive both the bottom line through consumer demand and the ‘top’ line through innovation, new markets and new business opportunities.
Felix Dodds suggested that new groups should be welcome to join the dialogue, and noted that The Stakeholder Forum was founded to help stakeholders stay informed and become involved in processes such as Rio+20 do (www.earthsummit2012.org ).
As the Commission on Sustainable Development works laboriously for two weeks on a framework and set of principles for a green economy, they are blazing new trails through unknown territory, and are bound to face some resistance from some well-funded entities that might be resistant, because of legitimate restraints in our present system, to letting go of business as usual. It’s going to take all hands on deck, and perhaps a major consciousness shift among both consumers and business. An eco-system in which 20% of the people consume 80% of the resources will collapse quickly. This may be the biggest challenge man has faced in evolution.
In wrapping up our conversation, I asked Felix Dodds, who just published his new book Biodiversity-and Ecosystem Insecurity: A Planet in Peril, what a green economy would look like. “I think that no one understands the green economy yet,” said Mr. Dodds. “There are many components and we must put our heads together.” So, there we have it. A call to action, a call to “create a vision” of what a fair and just economy could look like, and what it will take to build it.
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