Reflections on the Corporate Sustainability Forum in Rio

Gus Schellekens reflects on the close of the Corporate Sustainability Forum in Rio.

Monday 18th June marked the close of the Corporate Sustainability Forum at the Rio+20 talks. Following reflections from the Queen of Sweden on the last 40 years and challenges by a teenager from New Zealand on the increasingly urgent need to take action in the coming years, delegates in the closing ceremony received summaries of the discussion outcomes from each of the leaders of the six themes that the previous four days had explored in detail.

Agriculture and Food, Economics and Finance of Sustainable Development, Energy and Climate, Social Development, Urbanisation and Cities, and Water and Ecosystems all provided updates on what had been discussed and in a few cases, provided details of new pledges and commitments that had been made by private sector companies. Nothing radical jumped out, the list of topics that had been deliberated and the suggestions being made was a familiar one leading some to comment that perhaps not much had changed since 1992 and also that perhaps not much progress had really been made in the intervening years making the outcomes in the coming days even more critical for the planet.

RioOne consistent message that emerged that would be used to deliver the detailed recommendations to the Government negotiators at the start of the formal talks was that private sector businesses were ready to deliver action and innovation to address the sustainable development challenges identified, but... were waiting for governments to take action first. In return, government representatives present were keen to stress that private sector businesses were a key constituency in delivering the desired outcomes and that leadership was required. For many this also sounded like the usual chicken and egg situation with no immediate sign of progress. Hoping to perhaps invoke some divine intervention Rio de Janeiro officials have even arranged for the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain to be flooded in green light for the duration of the United Nations Conference.

Whether this additional reminder will ultimately be enough to result in a breakthrough and a meaningful outcome still remains to be seen.