A Call to Action for Global Green Businesses — United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) Works to Envision a Global Green Economy by Rio+20. by Martha Shaw


A Call to Action for Global Green Businesses — United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) Works to Envision a Global Green Economy by Rio+20
EA reports from the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19)

Submitted by: Earth Advertising
Categories:Environment, Sustainability
Posted: May 06, 2011 – 04:27 PM EST

contributed by Martha Shaw

NEW YORK, May 06 /CSRwire/ – 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 (ICC), International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) and the United States 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.

CSD-19 Can developed and developing countries find common-ground? by Martha Shaw May 3, 2011 on CSRwire.

About Martha Shaw. M.Sc.

Martha Shaw is a contributing writer in clean technology and other topics. Martha has been named an Adweek Creative All Star and is the winner of international awards in communications, as well as a scientist. She is a member of the Climate Literacy Network, Fellow of the Explorers Club, board member of NYSES and CEO of Earth Advertising.


* Ready for Rio? Find out how your green business can have a voice in the dialogue, and a seat at the table at COP-17 in Durban, South Africa, December 2011, and at Rio +20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 2012. Learn more about the Green Business Initiative through Earth Advertising.

* We are pleased to welcome our newest clients: New Leaf Paper, the earth’s greenest 100% post-consumer paper, and Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the largest biosphere in the world. See PBS Frontline World, Rough Cut: Mexico: The Business of Saving Trees.

*Earth Advertising is a green certified, women-owned enterprise, committed to healthy people, a healthy planet, and a healthy economy through 360º media campaigns, webgames, creative tools, and research in consumer conscience.

International Women’s Day at United Nations by Martha Shaw


International Women’s Day: UN Launches New Song at the World Fashion Forum

By Martha Shaw

International Women’s Day at the United Nations on Friday, March 8th, was a day of hope for gender and environmental rights as models and manufacturers, retailers and refugees gathered for World Fashion Forum. The Forum brought together hundreds of strong women who are navigating the social and cultural intricacies of fashion to transform the industry to a higher level of consciousness.

Slobodan Damiyano, President of the Global Millennium Development Foundation gave the opening remarks followed by H. E. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant General of the United Nations and Deputy Director of UN Women. Luminaries in the fashion industry joined a panel moderated by Fern Mallis, the Creator of Fashion Week, to discuss fashion’s role in social humanitarianism and spotlight efforts toward consciousness in the industry. Ashley Jordan of Fashion One television shared opportunities for global awareness and engagement in fashion media.

The new song “One Woman” features 25 artists from 20 countries

UN Women, global champion for women and girls, premiered the song, “One Woman,” a rallying cry to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality, featuring artists from all over the world. It focuses on overcoming violence and discrimination against women, a human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women globally. The lyrics celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who make extraordinary contributions to their own communities and countries.

Listen to the song.

OCEANS’13 to be the largest ocean conference in history… by Martha Shaw


World Ocean Community to Gather at “An Ocean in Common” in San Diego, September 23-26

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 22 /CSRwire/ – More than a dozen professional and academic societies are coming together for OCEANS ’13 MTS/IEEE San Diego, An Ocean in Common. The conference is scheduled for September 23-26 with many side activities taking place before, during and after the event, making it the largest and most comprehensive ocean science and engineering gathering in U.S. history.

The sponsoring societies are the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (IEEE-OES) and the Marine Technology Society (MTS). Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has been announced as the OCEANS ’13 MTS/IEEE San Diego academic host. Participating societies include: AGU Ocean Sciences (AGU-OS), Acoustical Society of America (ASA), The Oceanography Society (TOS), Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), American Fisheries Society (AFS), the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the Association of Dive Contractors (ADC), and others.

According to conference chairman Robert Wernli, the world’s leading scientists, engineers and technologists will be attending to participate in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of MTS, the 45th for the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, and the 110th anniversary of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

“Scripps Institution of Oceanography is proud to be academic host of An Ocean in Common,” said Doug Bartlett, a professor of marine microbiology and chair of the Education Department at Scripps. “This historical gathering couldn’t be more timely as Scripps celebrates its 110th anniversary during the conference. Our oceans, 70 percent of Earth’s surface, require our collective intelligence and attention as never before and Scripps is proud to be a collaborator in this vital gathering of scientists, engineers and the community.”

This international conference is a major forum for scientists, engineers, ocean professionals and enthusiasts to gather and exchange their knowledge and ideas. An Ocean in Common features a day of tutorials, multiple tracks of technical sessions, student poster competition, keynote speakers, receptions, public exhibit halls, and a banquet on the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego Bay. In addition, a two-night film festival and weekend golf tourney will kick off the week’s activities. Other side events offered include local diving, and visits to the many attractions that make San Diego one of the world’s most popular destinations.

Today it was announced that a second exhibit hall has been opened, due to popular demand. Information on Registration, Schedule, Call for Papers, Exhibit Space, and updates on the week’s events are posted at http://www.oceans13mtsieeesandiego.org.

Meeting of the Minds by Martha Shaw


Business and environmental leaders brainstorm sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

by Martha Shaw

(San Diego, CA) – May 15, 2013 – What would happen if you sequestered big business leaders and entrepreneurs with environmental thought leaders and encouraged them all to brainstorm ways to reduce our tread on the planet? With a little luck and a lot of work, you get sustainable solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges.

Fortune Brainstorm Green
Fortune Brainstorm Green opened on April 29 in Laguna Niguel, California with actor Harrison Ford and Peter Seligmann of Conservation International, and continued for twenty-four hours spread out over three days of panels, breakout sessions, meals and soirees. CEOs and sustainability officers of the largest multinational corporations on Earth shared progressive ideas and presented smart solutions in an atmosphere of friendship and goodwill, not to mention breathtaking ocean views. These executives face the challenge of achieving ever-increasing profits for their public companies, while reducing their impact on the environment.

Social Venture Network’s Courageous Conversations
Some of the attendees had just come from Social Venture Network’s Courageous Conversations (SVN) conference in San Diego, April 25-28. At SVN, social entrepreneurs were looking deep into the supply chain to launch and grow businesses that help solve problems that plague the planet and the poor. These eco-preneurs face the challenge of raising capital and gaining distribution while struggling to keep their companies privately held, thus immune to the destructive effects of rapid growth expressed in the quarterly earnings of public companies. Many, in fact, were on their way to the national gathering of Slow Money held in Boulder. Errol Schweizer of Whole Foods inspired the group with excellent examples of mutually beneficial relationships throughout the supply chain that nourish the planet.

Conservation International – a balancing act
Conservation International (CI), a not for profit organization that helps big companies go green, and encourages green companies to grow big, among many other activities, has a vision for an environmentally healthy world with economic security for all. At Fortune Brainstorm Green, CEO and Co-founder Peter Seligmann shared that vision in which Earth’s natural wealth serves as the cornerstone for vibrant, thriving human societies. He cited the need for a global shift in attitudes and actions. As an example of tools available to gauge progress or lack thereof, Deb Zeyen of CI’s Marine Division, revealed the new Ocean Health Index which calculates an annual global score that assesses the condition of marine ecosystems, an indicator for the health of the planet. From fisheries to farms, natural resources are at the root of the supply chain, and many argue that these resources belong to the commons, not the corporations.

Greening the supply chain
A supply chain is a series of links that begins with natural resources and the people who live in communities among them, and ends up as a product or service on the market. If that product, for instance, is sold by a public company, the stock market is yanking at the chain. The dichotomy is that without the omnipotent reach and infrastructure of big business, the task of smaller businesses getting products to market is daunting, and investors eventually want their investment returned. This often leads to mergers and acquisitions. SVN member Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla that sold to Coca-Cola, summed up one advantage of getting healthy green products to mass market by saying, “Thank gawd for Odwalla Superfood in airports!”

An ideal green economy is a complex integration of nature and people within an ecosystem. Much of the talk at sustainability conferences is about how to define an ideal modern day ecosystem. Because of the keen level of sophistication and passion in the room, these conversations often lead to the topic of biomimicry. Ethical Biomimicry Finance™, a joint venture between Biomimicry 3.8 and Ethical Markets, brings Nature to Finance. What can we learn from nature about balance? Everybody is talking about a circular economy.

Circular economy – the new buzz words
The concept of a circular economy is a common theme at business conferences which address a forthcoming scarcity of natural resources. Though reusing, recycling and recovering materials can certainly mitigate some of the environmental degradation, the business cases for a circular economy vary as dramatically as the materials themselves. From local vendors like Jade Planet that uses found objects to make footwear and handbags, to Yerdle’s model of sharing, to Alcoa mining trash for aluminum, one can find a wide range of promising examples where businesses are engaging in the complete life cycle of materials. One has only to view the satellite images of the plastic gyre in the Pacific, or the landfills of Brazil, to agree that it’s not a moment too soon.
The rapid expansion of manufacturing and commerce over the past five decades or so has left rubble on our land, toxics in our water, dead zones in our oceans, and poison in our skies. We discovered that man has a ravenous propensity to accumulate, consume and toss natural resources without thinking much about it. As a species, we are taking a look in the mirror and not liking what we see. The mass population of people on the planet has lost the native intelligence to protect our habitats, unlike bees and other species for example. We don’t live conservatively in a circular economy. At the cash register and on e-commerce sites, we invest our money in conveniences often destined for our oceans, and our own living environments in a linear direction.

Communications and Relationship Building
The tactics of environmental advocacy groups often fail by reprimanding man for acting like man. Though well-meaning, these efforts pale in comparison to the opposing well-funded forces convincing us that we’ll be much happier with more everything. This leaves us alarmingly dependent on businesses to do the right thing and help figure out how ten billion people could potentially be sustained on Earth in a socially equitable fashion. That’s why these business conferences are so important. They create opportunities for collective intelligence that we have not demonstrated on our own, and have stopped seeking from our governments.
From sustainable clothing manufacturers that support women below the poverty line, to juice makers striving to grow healthy local economies, to multinational soda and beer bottlers exploring ways to use their omnipotent presence for good, to shipping companies leading the way in green transportation, there is a lot of business going on in the world to feel good about. Regardless of how people feel about the corporate monopoly on resources, it is generally agreed that relationships are a good thing, and businesses are the real pros at building them. Successful enterprises are dependent on successful relationships. Green conferences are a means to that end. Sharing a coffee or a beat on the dance floor can lead to sharing a point of view. When you see an environmental leader dancing with a stockbroker, there’s the opportunity waiting to happen.

What about the United Nations?
While some look to businesses, others turn to the United Nations. This month, countries from around the world convened at the UN on the subject of protecting the ungoverned high seas, also known as Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), from industrial fishing gone haywire, deep sea mining, and other private interests that have a destructive effect on the health of our planet. But the business working group at the UN is more likely to represent the chemical and extraction industry. While area-based management tools, marine reserves, and environmental impact assessments are critical to our oceans’ future, they represent a restriction to multinational business activity, and to countries hoping to reap the rewards of the sea as though gold mining. A good effort but progress is slow.

While the sustainable consumption movement has high hopes for the general public to become advocates for the environment through purchase choices and lifestyle, the level of activism has yet to reach expectations. For instance, we go through 500 million plastic straws per day in the USA alone and 38,000 per person per lifetime, when all one has to say is “No straw, please.” People like straws and don’t want to give them up despite being environmental hazards. Though the general trend may be toward conservation, it isn’t happening fast enough to keep us and our fellow critters from drowning in our own trash.

Business conferences may be the answer
What do sustainable business conferences lead us to? Evidence that our species has all the brain cells we need to solve most problems. We might have what it takes to create harmony with nature if business relationships are built for the good of the planet. When business people come down from the skyscrapers, out of the factories, off the rigs, and up from the tankers to mingle for the sake of their grandchildren’s future, magic can happen. When the great social entrepreneurs of our time gather to share best practices together, our adrenalin kicks in and we get jazzed. Whether it’s Whole Foods or Unilever, retailers at the gateway can’t go it alone and they don’t want to. Environmental and social professionals working at the bottom link of the supply chain are resolving issues with computer manufacturers and apparel designers. Responsible restaurateurs know they can’t choose which fish to serve without consulting experts. Even at Rio+20 Earth Summit, it was the businesses that made the greatest milestones.

Why teleconferencing can’t cut it
Can virtual conferences replace live meetings so that nobody ever has to leave his or her office? Like all species, we thrive, grow and flourish on personal interaction. Despite new technology, we can’t create fully symbiotic relationships of the magnitude needed online, any more than a coral could Skype a fish to form an interdependent, mutually beneficial relationship in balance with the ecosystem. Living happily ever after as a species requires a determined, concentrated effort to cooperate and mingle together. It’s not just networking, it’s friend making and the joy of belonging to an ecosystem.

The hum
If you step back and listen to the distinctive hum of a happy hour at a sustainability conference, it has a buzz unique to the cross-pollination of ideas. That’s the vibe that may save our species yet.

Martha Shaw Interviews Heather White, Director of New Standards.

Courageous Conversations: Social Venture Network Interview Series on Transforming the Way the World Does Business. by Martha Shaw

Heather White is a social entrepreneur advocating for responsible supply chain practices. She is the director of New Standards, which contributes to the improvement of global working conditions through research and direct engagement strategies. In 1995, she founded Verite, a non-profit organization helping companies and other stakeholders to understand labor issues, overcome obstacles, and build sustainable solutions into their supply chains.

Interview by Martha Shaw, founder of Earth Advertising which promotes the growth of environmentally responsible businesses through brand strategy and media campaigns.

SVN: What kind of conversation will you be participating in during Courageous Conversations, SVN’s Spring Conference?

Heather White: Raphael Bemporad of BBMG will be playing talk show host in a Courageous Conversation with me. I think for everyone it requires commitment and honesty today to speak from the heart, which may be counter to the prevailing mainstream messaging promoted by corporate interests. We’ll be speaking about a few urgent topics currently outside mainstream views about China’s economic success.

SVN: How does courage play a role in what you do?

Heather White: I am producing a video as part of a larger book project, about teenagers and young workers poisoned and injured on assembly lines overseas because of toxic chemicals and unsafe conditions. The courage is on their end, not mine.

The interviews for the book took place in hospitals where these teenagers and young people around 20 years old lay paralyzed from exposure to chemical agents used in manufacturing – from cleaning computer screens for instance. I’m grateful that they are willing to talk with me, a total stranger asking them why they are in the hospital and where they work. Sometimes they have lost a hand in the machinery and are too embarrassed or ashamed to tell their own families. Some said they were contemplating suicide because they no longer see a future for themselves. To envision a new life for themselves takes courage.

Also, the NGOs who are trying to help them are courageous, working underground and going to hospitals to serve the victims despite the tight security trying to keep them out.

SVN: How did you come to stand up for the rights of factory workers?

Heather White: I had been consulting to corporations who were expanding their operations globally as an operating strategy. Contradictions were emerging for me. While they were posting record profits, workers were suffering from malnutrition among other things. Having worked for many years as an outsourcing agent, I was able to persuade factories to let me in at a time when many of the companies had publicists making the problems go away. I felt I had to do something.

SVN: What has been your greatest challenge?

Heather White: When I first started Verite, I was sometimes exhausted from the challenges of the work, and still had a lot of daily family obligations. I had three children under the age of eleven. It was difficult at times being a wife and mother while trying to launch a global organization. Sometimes, there were too many pulls between my work and the attention I needed to give the family.

SVN: How did you encounter SVN?

Heather White: I was introduced to SVN through SVN member David Berge, and invited to a conference. At SVN, I connected with so many like-minded folks, it gave me emotional support for my work. This was at a time when I was working with people who didn’t share my values. SVN became the business environment where I felt most comfortable. I knew I had to attend every one of the conferences that I possibly could.

Written by Martha Shaw

How to Spur Millions Toward Energy Efficiency by Martha Shaw

Visualized Energy Solutions by Zerofootprint Inspire Action

Posted: Oct 10, 2012 – 08:04 PM EST


NEW YORK, Oct. 10 /CSRwire/ - Zerofootprint Inc., a leader in energy information for the public, announced today that Oxford Properties Group has selected its VELO™ platform to help make their energy efficiency programs more successful; by engaging tenants. Real-time energy usage displays on big screens in Oxford’s Royal Bank Plaza lobby, show how the building’s 7500 occupants consume energy throughout the day, bringing awareness to their impact.

The effect is significant, as occupants and their guests can see the 2.1 million square foot complex’s energy usage in real time. The Sustainability Director of Oxford Properties, Darryl Neate, said, “We are proud to offer leading energy efficiency programs to our tenants through Oxford’s Sustainable Intelligence platform. The success of these programs depends on engaging people, and Zerofootprint’s VELO™ is helping us provide real-time energy information and conservation tips to our tenants in an easy-to-understand, compelling way.”

When people see their energy usage, a light goes on. Then they think about turning one off. Zerofootprint creates products that catalyze these real changes by engaging people in what they are using and their own impact. “Changing tenant behavior is the one remaining untapped resource for energy efficiency in buildings. Our implementation at Oxford sets a new standard for tenant engagement, based on actual usage,” said Ron Dembo, Founder and CEO of Zerofootprint. “We are excited to be part of Oxford’s renowned efforts in sustainability and energy efficiency. It is a leader in sustainable buildings and we are very pleased to be an integral part of Oxford’s groundbreaking energy programs for commercial buildings.”

Zerofootprint’s VELObill“App for Energy” honored at White House Energy Datapalooza.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu honored the WINNERS of the Department of Energy’s inaugural “Apps for Energy” challenge at the Energy Datapalooza, including Zerofootprint’s VELObill™. It won the Grand Prize Popular Choice Award in the Green Button “Apps for Energy” Competition. VELObill makes it easier than ever to visualize energy usage data, compare it to peers, and make a plan to save energy.

Zerofootprint has been working with U.S. Government agencies such as the Department of Energy to harness the power of Green Button data to help Americans understand and reduce their utility bills. This commitment to U.S. clean energy continues with the Energy Data Initiative, making solutions available to integrate data from Energy Star, utilities, and private sector vendors that help Americans better understand and reduce their energy consumption. Solutions include Zerofootprint’s “Negawatt” and “Improve Your Move” solutions built on its award-winning VELO platform.

“The Energy Data Initiative provides an incredible opportunity to help Americans make critical decisions regarding energy use,” said Zerofootprint’s Ron Dembo. “We will continue our commitment to this and other U.S. Government programs that promote the sharing and management of energy information to create value and jobs in America.”

If your organization is moving people toward energy efficiency, find out more about Zerofootprint’s winning consumer engagement programs at info@zerofootprint.net.

About Zerofootprint

Zerofootprint shows energy in ways that help people understand it—and once that light goes on for people, they start to think about turning one off. With VELO™, Zerofootprint enables companies to create more effective energy programs, and has helped hundreds of companies around the world. For more information visit http://www.zerofootprint.net.

About the Energy Data Initiative

The Obama Administration has launched the Energy Data Initiative, an Administration-wide effort to “liberate” government data, and voluntarily contributed non-government data, to harness the power of American ingenuity to solve pressing energy challenges. The goal is to fuel entrepreneurs with newly available and previously untapped data, spurring new products and services that help families and businesses save money on utility bills and at the pump, protect the environment, and ensure a safe and reliable energy future. Find out more at: www.data.gov


The minus of Rio+20

The Minus of Rio+20

The final days of the Rio+20 Conference were the culmination of years of pre-negotiations and expectations among tens of thousands of diverse leaders representing billions of people and enterprises all over the world. Included was representation of the future generations of humankind, and hundreds of millions of other species, many of which have yet to be discovered.

The Conference goals were to reduce poverty, advance social equity, and ensure environmental protection, including renewable energy use, on an increasingly crowded planet.

Though expected, it was discouraging that there was more talk than action about the rather weak pre-negotiated document. Everyone put in their final two cents as government leaders gave it the rubber stamp with some omissions and edits. There were high hopes that there would be more input to strengthen the outcome.

See the final 53-page final “Future We Want” outcome document here.

The meetings that led up to the meetings
The three days of meetings of the third Preparatory Committee began on June 13 when government representatives negotiated documents to be adopted during the final high-level meetings of June 20-22. During this time, an additional 500 side events were held by governments, UN Major Groups, organizations within the UN system, and other international organizations. In between were the Dialogue Days from June 16 –19, with another hundred meetings. Parallel to all of the above were dozens of conferences, award shows, protests and demonstrations, dinners, and private receptions by business groups, governments, corporations, public-private partnerships, womens groups, environmental groups, ngos and activists.

All in all, a unified and aggressive outcome to save the world was a tall order. The thick fog that hung over the dramatic landscape and seascape of Rio de Janeiro, coupled with the gridlock of busses and cars, came to symbolize the event.

Lost at sea
Pushing for protection of our oceans was the High Seas Alliance. The group worked around the clock seeking agreements in the final outcome document that would determine the fate of vast areas of the ocean beyond jurisdiction, now a no-mans-land that is free for the taking, and ravaged by destructive fishing techniques, dumping and mining.

Hopes were dashed upon discovery early on June 19 that a 3 a.m. coup by a coalition of the US and Venezuela, helped by Canada, Russia and Japan, vetoed text in the final document for a UN treaty to protect the high seas and create an international network of marine protected areas, including the Arctic Ocean. On Tuesday the Secretary-General of Rio+20, Sha Zukang, confirmed that there would be no further negotiations on that particular text which signaled the continuation of mining and oil extraction to those countries staking their claim.

The loss was both a disappointment and a shock after being named among top priorities through public pre-voting and by experts at the Sustainable Development Dialogue on Oceans. The Dialogues, moderated by Phillipe Cousteau, included his uncle Dr. Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society, and Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue, whose speech can be viewed here.

In a final statement issued by the High Seas Alliance, Sue Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group said, “We came to Rio with high expectations for action to address the ocean crisis. It would be a mistake to call Rio a failure, but for a once-in-a-decade meeting with so much at stake, it was a far cry from a success.”

Alex Rogers, scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean said, “What I have seen at this summit has utterly appalled me. I have recently been observing seamounts in the southern Indian Ocean devastated by trawlers. These ecosystems take thousands of years to develop. I wish the negotiators here could witness what I have seen.”

Hope that the tide will turn
Though there was a net loss to oceans, the final Rio+20 outcome document does include a commitment to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources, especially plastics, as well as persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and nitrogen-based compounds. It also includes a commitment to take action on ocean acidification, fishing subsidies and overfishing.

Some advocates looked at the bright side and felt positive that for the first time attention had focused on this 71 percent of our planet’s surface long considered a grab bag and universal sewer. “Oceans are on the record in a way that they weren’t 20 years ago – and we will hold governments to this record,” said Charlotte Smith of Oceans Inc. Also cited was World Bank’s commitment to the Global Partnership for Oceans.

Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “Rio+20 has shown less backbone than your average cnidarian [jelly fish] but if we use this to take the action clearly indicated then progress will have been made.”

Leila Monroe, an ocean conservation attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, spoke also of a silver lining, saying that Rio+20 was “a hugely valuable gathering of the smartest minds in business, law, and policy.”

Public protest
Though all participants at Rio+20 were encouraged in the media and at the side events to register voluntary commitments for sustainable development, this did not come close to satiating the public for input.

A protest at the Rio Centro led by activists including 350.org founder and CSRwire contributing writer, Bill McKibben, called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. On the beach at Copacabana, a two-hour traffic jam away, a giant trillion-dollar bill had been unfurled to represent the trillion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies to “polluters” that could otherwise be used for clean energy and sustainable development. In the weeks leading up to Rio+20, it seemed unlikely that fossil fuel subsidies would enter into the negotiations, but massive public outcry including a viral petition to world leaders signed by over a million people, and a star-studded, record-breaking twitterstorm pushed the issue.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon took a meeting on the last day with representatives of the Peoples Summit who delivered a rejection letter and harsh criticism against the Rio+20 final document. Demonstrations are planned to continue throughout the weekend.

Later, hundreds of civil society members, led by members of the 350.org movement and youth organizations, decided that their message was “Walk Out, Not Sell Out!” and they officially walked out of the Rio+20 negotiations. The protesters rallied through the stale Rio Centro halls shouting, “The Future We Want is not here!” Handing in their badges, many of them decided that the People’s Summit is where they want to shape the plans for the future.

Attention span waned on final day
During the final three days at Rio Centro Media Center, in between press conferences, the media sat at rows of tables under large screens that streamed the high-level meetings live. One after another, heads of state read prepared statements without much discussion. Many of the side events were in a similar format, with panelists reading statements, including one where a speaker read in monotone directly from his iPhone for nearly half an hour. Celebrity deliveries were a welcome reprieve, including one about high seas by Richard Branson. Power plugs in the media center were claimed early, denying many reporters a computer connection, leaving little distraction as the hours wore on and nothing much happened in regard to the final outcome.

Conversations often led to expressions of frustration about how trying to save the world was not only remarkably discouraging, but incredibly boring.

The plus of Rio +20
On the plus side, relationships were formed, public private partnerships forged and many important issues were spotlighted for the world to see.

Voluntary commitments from countries and companies resulted in a pledge of $513 billion toward efforts to curb the use of fossil fuels, conserve water and encourage wider use of renewable energy. Businesses and investors committed more than $50 billion to Sustainable Energy for All.

Also promising were advances among local authorities. Four dozen of the world’s largest cities have taken steps to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, showcasing goodwill and cooperation from business where the innovations come from.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff kept a positive spin on Rio+20. “I am convinced that this Conference will have the effect of bringing about sweeping change,” she said in her concluding remarks.

In the closing ceremony, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “The speeches are over. Now the work begins.”

In her concluding remarks Henrietta Elizabeth Thompson, Co-Executive Coordinator of Rio+20, reminded everyone that Martin Luther King spoke not of the nightmare, but of the dream.

Corporate Sustainability Leaders Convene at Rio+20

In this first of a series of dispatches from Rio+20, CSRwire’s Martha Shaw reports on the Corporate Sustainability Forum.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (June 19, 2012/CSRwire) – Hundreds of side events around the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) are taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week with an estimated 60,000 guests, including delegates, heads of state, government leaders, CEOs, sustainability directors, students, researchers, political decision-makers, non-profit organizations, media, event support teams and spirited activists. Their hope: eradicating poverty, curtailing environmental destruction and ending social injustice.

The UN Global Compact, which establishes an alliance between the UN and the private sector, now has 10,000 corporate members, with 7,000 of them active.The United Nations Global Compact’s Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum: Innovation and Collaboration for the Future We Want was one of them. It wrapped up on Monday, just days before the official Rio+20, known as the Earth Summit, convenes.

Progress, Problems Noted, Role For Private Sector
Queen Silvia of Sweden addressed the UNGC closing gathering, reflecting on the progress since the first Earth Summit in1992. She pointed out that in many countries, the air quality in cities has improved, as has the water quality of rivers and lakes. She also reminded the group that there are still many problems, including biodiversity and the stability of our climate, and that we must turn into opportunities. “This is something business is good at,” she said. “Because the private sector is focused on innovation and change, there is great potential for business to lead the way.”

Other speakers agreed that we can’t wait for governments to get it right and that corporations focusing on the long-term fate of our planet should be commended.

UN Global Compact

The UNGC’s Corporate Sustainability Forum was held in cooperation with the Rio+20 Secretariat, the UN System and the Global Compact Local Network Brazil in the days leading up to Rio+20 to bring greater scale and quality to corporate sustainability practices.

As a showcase for innovation and collaboration, the Forum was designed to be a launching ground for widespread action, representing business as well as investors, governments, local authorities, civil society and UN entities. “We are of course delighted that over 3000 people have come here for three days of hard work in 120 sessions on six tracks,” said Georg Kell. “Many of the solutions we need already exist, and we have demonstrated that on a massive scale… two hundred concrete commitments have been gathered.”

Speakers on stage reminded the gathering that although businesses may be ready to take action and mobilize capital, there remains a need for government support and that businesses working with the United Nations will help to unlock that potential.

One strong recurring theme in Rio this week at every level is ending subsidies for fossil fuel. And, while we are at it, ending subsidies that lead to over-fishing. Check back here for more news from Rio+20.

What do you think about what’s happening at Rio +20? Share your thoughts below—especially if you are attending.

The long road to Rio: Why the UN kept the lights on last weekend by Martha Shaw

Rarely is a more diverse collection of people found under one roof than the 500 or so working around the clock last weekend at the United Nations to hash out “the document” — a.k.a. the Zero draft of the outcome document — being submitted to the Rio+20 Earth Summit later this month. Working in the spirit of international, multilateral agreement were diplomats, delegates, youths, farmers, community leaders, indigenous people, local authorities, NGOs, scientists, technologists, women groups, activists, workers and trade unions, multinational business and industry representatives, and nonprofit organizations of all kinds. They were scrutinizing every word in every paragraph seeking common ground. One thing that everybody clearly had in common was stamina.

Though there were plenty of newbies to the process, this was not new for the many veterans who have been dedicated to the pressing global issues addressed in the document since the first Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the first document in which so many sections were agreed upon, but few implemented.

Filling in the brackets

Among those people who have been party to the process nearly since its inception, is Remi Parmentier, who has more than 35 years in the environmental movement working with many of the key players in the UN and other intergovernmental organizations. (See his blog: www.chezremi.com.) As the weekend at the UN wore on, I asked Parmentier if he was disappointed in the lack of agreement in key areas of the document. He shed a new light on the term “agreement” for me, pointing out that if we resorted to the lowest common denominator, it would be a document of little substance. In the document, the bracketed areas of text — the unresolved issues — represent areas where the envelope was being pushed. Remi Parmentier writes:

It is true there is at this late stage far too much square bracketed text reflecting disagreements in the overall negotiating document, hence it is going to be a real challenge to negotiate on so many issues in Rio and to get an outcome that makes sense. But at another level, it is important to recognize it is a good thing that countries that have a progressive agenda haven’t caved in completely. UN processes are too often a race towards the lowest common denominator, but the large amount of square bracketed text shows that we’re not there yet, even though what is considered “progressive” in the text could and should be stronger. If there was no key square bracketed text, there would be no tension, no drama, hence no story, hence little to report from Rio.

The New York-based diplomats are very good at maintaining and defending the positions of their respective countries, but by definition they do not have enough of a mandate or the necessary flexibility to negotiate in earnest; only the politicians can do that. So now that the negotiation is moving to Rio and the politicians are going to become involved we must maintain hope that real progress can be achieved by them. In a way it is a blessing that the diplomats haven’t dived into the lowest common denominator as they often do too fast, before handing it over to the politicians. It is not too late, almost everything is possible now, within the constraints of the negotiating text, if the governments come to Rio with a strong political will.

A triathlete in the race

Chantal Line Carpentier, the Sustainable Development Officer & Major Groups Program Coordinator of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development, has the task of coordinating the “Major Groups” throughout the Rio+20 process, including on the ground in Rio. What is evident in Carpentier is an in-depth understanding of the issues, the endurance of a triathlete, which she is, and a knack for “herding cats,” as the expression goes. She remained composed and incredibly organized throughout the process.

In an interview with Civicus, the world alliance for citizen participation, Carpentier said, “My hopes are high because the stakes are high. While countries have made some progress on changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production over the last 20 years, in the context of escalating economic and environmental pressures, and increasing populations, overall things have worsened. We are using resources at an increasing rate and the gaps between rich and poor are widening. Most of the world’s ecosystems are in decline. Meanwhile, more than one billion people lack access to food, electricity or safe drinking water. When you consider all that, it’s not really surprising that social unrest is on the rise.”

Nearing the end of the road
The last of pre-negotiations to Rio+20, now just two weeks away, concluded Saturday night with the book launch of Only One Earth, by Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum, and Michael Strauss, with a foreword by Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the Earth Summit in 1992.

Strong writes: “In the same way that banks succeeded at privatizing the profits and socializing the losses as they led the global economy to the brink of collapse, we are in danger of doing the same with the environment. Humanity has taken a huge leap in the last decades and become a planetary-scale force – we need to behave as a global civilization if we are not to face catastrophic consequences.”
The book looks back over what has been achieved in the past 40 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the first Earth Summit in 1992, and ahead to what critically needs to happen at Rio+20 and beyond.

This excerpt from Only One Earth is especially pertinent to Rio+20:

Rio+20 is a unique opportunity to make the “change-of-course” called for by business leaders at the Earth Summit in 1992. It requires fundamental changes in the way in which we manage the activities through which we impact on the Earth’s sustainability. This will require a degree of cooperation beyond anything we have yet experienced at a time when competition and conflict over scarce resources is escalating.
Underscoring this were the closing remarks of Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of Rio+20, that commended everyone for their tireless efforts but also referred to the document as a far cry from the focused political document mandated by the General Assembly. “We have had an intense week of negotiations, and I sense real progress. Still, as everyone in this room is well aware, we have much hard work ahead of us in Rio. I have listened to both the plenary discussions and many of the informal splinter group discussions. I sense a real dialogue; a real willingness to find common ground. This spirit is encouraging, and we must carry it to Rio. Yet, we must drastically accelerate the pace of our negotiations,” said Sha. “We need action. We need government commitment to action, in the outcome document. And we also need voluntary commitments from all stakeholders.”

The next and final Preparatory Committee meeting will be held in Rio June 13-15, just ahead of the Rio+20 Conference itself, held from June 20-22. The Rio+20 Secretariat has also opened a registry of commitments on the Rio+20 website that is designed to complement the government-ratified outcome document. To join the global conversation, visit Rio+20: The Future We Want.