Thursday, June 21, 2012

Corporate Sustainability Pledges at Rio+20 UN Forum

The United Nations Global Compact Corporate Sustainability Forum saw more than 150 tangible commitments from the business community. Business leaders pledged sustainable policies and joined a call for world leaders to usher in "a green industrial revolution" to save the planet. The 1200 CEOs made voluntary commitments to greater energy efficiency, reforestation, a lower carbon footprint and other green policies. This is all part of their policy recommendations which will be presented to heads of state at the conference. According to a UN Global Compact release, these pledges are "time-bound, measurable commitments on which corporations are required to report annually."

There was a also a special communiqué signed by 45 CEOs urging governments to establish a "fair and appropriate price" of water for agriculture, industry and people. These Forty-five chief executives vowed to make water security a strategic priority and called for decisive action by governments. Signatories include chiefs of global companies such as Pepsico, Coca Cola, Nestle, Saint-Gobain, Royal Dutch Shell, Akzo Nobel, Bayer, Heineken and Pernod Ricard.

More than 30 global insurance companies, worth more than $5 trillion in total assets pledged to join a UN-backed process to promote a set of Principles for Sustainable Insurance. These leading insurance companies pledged to consider environmental, social and governance issues in decision-making, work with clients to raise awareness of ESG issues, and work with governments and regulators to promote action on these topics. Signatory companies will also publicly disclose their progress in implementing the Principles for Sustainable Insurance, on an annual basis.

Luxembour-based ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by eight percent for every ton of steel produced by 2020, based on a 2007 baseline, Industry Week reports. Industry Week also reports that DuPont committed $10 billion by 2020 to research and development, and plans to launch 4,000 new products by the end of 2020 to produce more food, enhance nutrition and improve farming sustainability worldwide.

The International Civil Aviation Organization launched Flightpath to a Sustainable Future, a global initiative consisting of the first-ever series of connecting flights powered by sustainable alternative fuels. The air transport sector has committed itself to environmental responsibility, including its goal to cap net aircraft carbon emissions from 2020 and reduce net carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

US based Microsoft vowed to achieve net zero emissions for its data centers, software development centers, software development labs, offices and employee air travel by boosting energy efficiency and buying renewable energy. "We said we would be carbon neutral starting July 1," Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmentalist strategist, told a press conference.

Global clothing retailer H&M said it would upgrade to 100 percent sustainable cotton - organic or recycled - in its cotton garments while US sporstwear giant Nike set a target of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals across its entire supply chain by 2020.

South Africa's state-owned utility Eskom and US Duke Energy pledged to assist the development of an electrification roadmap to ensure 500 million people across Africa and developing countries have access to energy by 2025.

Commitments also came from corporations in the host country of Brazil. Netafim, a global leader in smart drip and micro-irrigation solutions says it is working with the ministry of integration to install 1000 family drip systems on small-scale farms in the northeastern state of Piaui by 2014. Drip irrigation helps save water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone.

In an interview with The Guardian, Gavin Power, deputy director the UN Global Compact, explains: "For companies this is enlightened self interest...Companies like certainty and in areas where there is no pricing they are very vulnerable. It could potentially push up prices in some markets but better to pay more and have certainty of supply." The business community gives us reason to be optimistic at Rio+20.

The corporate pledges made at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum demonstrate that there are some forward looking companies that are showing leadership.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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