Rio+20 closes today and Karin Ireton, Standard Bank Group's Executive Head of Sustainability, is heading home. She says the message coming out of Rio+20 remains: "Rethink what you are doing and build more sustainable, greener economies or face growing stakeholder unrest."
"Having attended the business events at the Rio+20 summit, it’s clear that business is going to have to play a bigger role in contributing to sustainable development by scaling up and speeding up the greening of economies.''
"Negotiation officials in Rio yesterday handed their political leaders a preliminary agreed text that will reflect the outcome of the weeks of negotiation both here and at the UN in New York.''
"In it they confirm all previous commitments to sustainable and inclusive development made here at Rio in 1992, in Johannesburg in 2002 and in numerous international gatherings in between. Rio's 1992 Earth Summit spawned the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the convention on biodiversity as well as a convention to combat desertification.''
"The work on those continue and there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction about their slow pace and lack of performance improvement. All indicators are that we will exceed the 2 degrees Celsius window for keeping climate change within manageable limits.''
"So, while negotiators have succeeded remarkably in finding text that keeps most countries feeling like their issues have been dealt with and they have not been pushed beyond their political limits, it does not reflect the anger which Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme experienced when visiting the 'people's summit' in the centre of the city.''
"That has been a hot bed of protest by Brazilians and NGOs during this period. Nor does the text reflect the sense of urgency to achieve scale in solutions for sustainable development challenges expressed during four days of private-sector deliberations. Peter Bakker, new President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said yesterday to his thousands of colleagues: 'I love you all for the good things you are doing, but it is not enough.'
"The text does include a softer version of a plea by investor groups that governments should mandate integrated sustainability reporting. Investors managing more than $30-trillion believe the only way to be able to direct money towards more sustainable business practice is on the basis of more transparency and accountability. Dr Steve Waygood, of Aviva investors, said: 'We want to see boards applying their minds to the full range of issues and then explaining that thinking to us.'
"For South African business, which is already applying King III and its requirements for integrated reporting, there are clear benefits in being ahead of the curve. In particular, we are of the signal from the World Federation of Stock Markets that it would follow leading emerging markets stock exchanges and drive a focus on sustainable development.''
"The German government, through its newly appointed environment minister, said Germany was ready to host the Green Climate Fund, agreed in Durban in December, and had already taken steps to ensure the European contribution to that fund would be paid in 2012 as promised. He said Germany, if selected as the host, would be ready to operate immediately and provide efficiency and skill and would use the proximity to the secretariat of the UNFCCC to build further efficiency. Other countries bidding to host the fund are believed to include South Korea and Switzerland.''
"The message for business is clear. Rethink what you are doing and build more sustainable, greener economies or face growing stakeholder unrest and distrust of the economic system and supply chains disrupted by increasingly volatile weather."