Have we got a business case for Rio?
Malcolm Preston previews Business Day at Rio+20.
We can’t talk about sustainable development in a resource constrained world when all resource usage and consumption is driven by business. Without business there is no consumption.
Business has been accused of not being specific enough with government about what they want in order to deliver the commitments needed on sustainability. Is the role of business at Rio to put what they want on the table in a more specific way, numbers, dates, and what their commitments are in return?
Why Rio+20 is interesting is because you’ve got four days of business meetings in the middle of the pre conference negotiations and the main conference itself. I think necessity – or a crisis – is the mother of invention, and business is the group that has the potential to be able to tackle this. So what’s stopping them?
I heard a phrase a few months back – TLC – not tender loving care, but transparency, longevity and consistency. You are asking business people, who are economically rational people, to make decisions that have a pay back of 10-15-20 years. If they don’t have the confidence that the policies supporting those business investments, will last that long then they won’t make them. Can we expect a CEO of a big business to make a decision without that TLC policy support?
We’ve run a global survey on CEOs’ views on their expectation for Rio+20 and priorities in sustainable development. Energy access, resource scarcity, climate change, and social inclusion are all issues for their business, and they admit they expect them to intensify over the next ten years.
71% said they would be prepared to take more ambitious action on the issues including poverty, water security, global threats and challenges if significant progress is made at Rio+20. They don’t feel they need global regulation and agreements in place, but they do need some indications that things are happening.
A key issue for companies over the next ten years will be resource management. Those at the leading edge are putting in place resource management systems. I think in ten years time, customers and investors will be looking at resource usage and companies performance on it differently.
Business enables the whole picture but to date there has been very little business engagement. You get some businesses thinking and talking about it, but they are in pockets, there’s no widespread discussion.
Rio+20 could be businesses’ opportunity. Even if all we get from Rio is, like we saw coming out of Durban, a commitment to sign up to development goals and sustainable development by 2015, then we know something is going to happen or change. It legitimises governments going back to regulate on these issues in preparation. There’s a lot of companies that need to see those signals.