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.

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.

Missing Voices: Green Business Leaders Discuss Representation at Rio+20

Missing Voices: Green Business Leaders Discuss Representation at Rio+20
Sustainability and Green Leaders Meet with United Nations to offer representation at Rio+20.

By Martha Shaw and Aman Singh

Nearly 100 sustainable business leaders crowded onto the 10th floor of the UN Church Center in New York City on May 1st to join a conversation with Chantal Line Carpentier, Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and other UN representatives.

The topic: To hear from the “missing voices” of over 200,000 entrepreneurs from organizations including the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Social Venture Network, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), B Lab, CSRwire, Green America and ‘buy local’ green business networks.

The meeting was hosted by The Temple of Understanding, and organized by Martha Shaw, to explore ways that founders of socially- and environmentally-responsible ‘triple bottom line” businesses might bring their voices to Rio+20, and beyond.

“We Must Raise Our Voice Now”
ASBC’s David Levine started the conversation by stressing that the gathered entrepreneurs are conscious of their global counterparts who are also running businesses that presuppose green practices and help serve social needs while making money.

“Whether they are social enterprises, micro enterprises, women’s groups or development groups, they all carry the same sensibilities of a triple bottom line. They are finding a balance between profits, social and environmental goals,” he said. “This voice is missing in our country today because a monolithic voice led by multinationals dominates all dialogues.”

Levine ended by emphasizing that this is the opportunity for the entrepreneurs to market their leadership and present their pioneering work on a global stage as a way of creating shared value. “This voice is new and we must raise it,” he ended.

“Define Sustainable and Green Business”
Green Map System’s Wendy Brawer picked up where Levine left by adding that until we define what “sustainable business” means, creating this coherent voice will be hard.

Jumping into the dialogue, CSRwire CEO Joe Sibilia made it clear that “any business that integrates the human condition into its operations, whether you call it humanity or spirituality, is sustainable. These entrepreneurs are using business to create a values-driven and sustainable world,” he said. “Financial gains cannot be the only objective. It’s that simple.”

Eco-preneurs at Rio+20
Temple of Understanding’s Grove Harris interjected by adding that it is “practices like the ones Joe is highlighting that need to be voiced at Rio+20. It is important to bring these issues to the table by showing business practices that manifest in social value.” She also added that traditionally, non-governmental organizations have not proven sophisticated enough to support our future and voices. “We need business to be there.”

More examples of mission-driven business enterprises solving many social and environmental problems, including the eradication of poverty, were offered, as was a comparison to the restraints of multinational corporations who are bound by law to act in the best interest of stockholder profits.

Though Sibilia, Harris, Brawer and B Lab’s Peter Strugatz offered several examples of supply chain relationships among green businesses and corporations going green, they also pointed out that many other models exist for ways the world can do business outside the restrictions of a corporation.

United Nations: Collaborate & Lead The Conversation
After hearing everyone out, Chantal Line Carpentier, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator, took the floor to urge the attendees to work with the UN in representing their issues at Rio+20.

She also emphasized clarifying ambiguous language about sustainability and suggested that the sector come to an agreement on what “private public partnerships mean” and “how you can help influence policy and regulatory frameworks.”

“Consider this as a strong call for leadership. There is a lot of talk about business doing more but how? Show us, offer best practices, define CSR, and align practices with the United Nations Global Compact guidelines,” she said.

Carpentier also recommended that the entrepreneurs make an effort to demystify the language around lifecycles, supply chain analysis and sustainability.

Finally, Tess Mateo, an advisor to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), pointed out that the Women, and Indigenous People Major Groups would be good allies and recommended that we remain cognizant of working together with the other enterprises in promoting our voice on the global stage.

Durban Climate Talks Highlight Agreement, Not Negotiation

As thousands of Occupy COP 17 demonstrators protested the injustice of climate change and slow progress of governments to do something about it, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), addressed the crowd last Friday. “Do more than you think you can do, and then do more,” she summoned those gathered outside the COP 17 headquarters, where delegates negotiated agreements on greenhouse gas limits. There was something refreshing about an event organizer encouraging discourse. “>See CSRwire article

By chance, Christiana’s brother, José María Figueres, past President of Costa Rica (1994–1998), was passing through the raucous crowd with me and Peter Boyd, President of Carbon War Room, an organization founded by Richard Branson and others to harness the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change. We encountered human rights leader Mary Robinson, the seventh President and first female President of Ireland (1990–1997) on her way to the COP 17 conference center, who congratulated the protesters for their passion and support. After all, it is the residents of Planet Earth whom the negotiators are fighting for behind closed doors.

This was the first of many uplifting encounters here in Durban, where thousands of innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and government officials are earnestly exploring new ways to create commerce while showing new respect for our planet, and for one another. As an American from the least popular country here at COP 17, it has been a humbling experience. I’ve had to answer a lot of questions like, “Are you sleeping?” It’s evident we are missing the boat when it comes to capitalizing on the emergence of new business opportunities with the rest of the world. How many Americans really want to sit back collecting unemployment and watch the world go by? Though I came here to look closer at the injustice of climate change, it was hard at first not to notice the clean tech deal flows, funds and jobs going to other countries here, and find even that unfair. Have Americans let fossil fuel lobbying, media brainwashing, right-wing fanaticism, subsidy corruption and campaign financing keep us out of the game? That, however, is another story.

Populations, of all species, afflicted by climate change and other environmental ailments are most certainly at the wrong place at the wrong time in history. Injustice runs rampant on this planet of finite resources: resource hoarding, dynamic physical forces and the destruction of so much by so few. Homo sapiens don’t have a balance with nature and we suffer from that, and so do the other species that call this planet home. Disparities among peoples, genders, generations, geographies and species can’t be fixed at COP 17.

But here, you find a lot of very smart people who want to give it a go. The common denominator we all share is the will to survive. Nobody is arguing that we need clean air and water, healthy food and a safe place to live—and most now agree on access to clean energy. Taking that further, most experts agree to the urgent need for a new, low-carbon economy with green infrastructures, more innovative thinking, technology transparency, project implementation, conservation, economic stimulus and funding mechanisms to correct our course. Like the winners and losers in a carbon economy, there will be winners and losers in the low-carbon economy. Some people will get rich. But, overall, fewer will get sick.

At COP 17, you don’t find people who won’t acknowledge that atmospheric carbon overloading is cooking us and causing all kinds of other problems. Those people must have stayed home. Embarrassingly, many of them are in the U.S.A. We try not to think about them, though the need for better communication in science is a hot topic. Groups toss around ideas like positive vs. negative messaging, how much information is too much or too little. What’s the public tipping point for doom and gloom, and how do you combat ignorance? You could hold up five fingers to some people and they’d only see four no matter what you say. They might even see three. It’s exasperating, but we need to move beyond that and work together with all those people who see what’s in front of them—science. There’s a sense of community here at COP 17 about moving on from the believer/non-believer argument to focus on fair and equitable solutions to a stressed-out planet.

I don’t see much promise at COP 17 for the winners of the industrial revolution to pay the losers for their trouble anytime soon. It is evident the one resource we have not depleted is the kindness of the human heart. Governments, foundations and businesses are springing forward to make sure this new, low-carbon economy creates prosperity among the most vulnerable people on Earth.

About Martha Shaw

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

This commentary is written by a valued member of the CSRwire contributing writers’ community and expresses this author’s views alone.

Readers: Can the Durban climate talks flip the switch from talk to action? Weigh in on Talkback!

US and Canadian Youth Demand Generational Justice

The U.S. youth at the climate talks are making a big play for justice on behalf of their generation during the last days of COP 17, claiming that the U.S. negotiators are putting their futures at risk.

Abigail Borah, a student from Middlebury College interrupted lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s concluding plenary speech on Thursday, pinpointing members of the U.S. Congress for impeding the progress of the summit. She also made a passionate plea to her government leaders to join the rest of the world in a fair and binding treaty.

Claiming that she was speaking on behalf of her country, Borah said that the negotiators themselves “cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America” because “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.”

Borah was ejected after completing her speech to voracious rounds of applause from the entire plenary of global leaders.

Ready for Change

Her actions, however aggressive, reflect the growing feeling of injustice among educated American youth who feel that their leaders have turned a blind eye to the facts at the expense of their own future on this planet. Afraid that each step of inaction will force them to suffer the worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable or unwilling to address, they are resorting to disruption.

Their list of complains isn’t restricted to inaction.

They also hold the U.S. responsible for foul play and claim that a few outspoken and misdirected Congress members, who continue to successfully hijack negotiations, are blocking progress. This has put off urgent pollution reduction targets until the year 2020, jeopardizing billions.

(Lack of) Public Activism

Some of them also believe that the American public is not outspoken enough. Mind you, these are kids seem to have done their homework: Overwhelmingly conclusive research shows that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction will likely cause irreversible damage and suffering to the world they will inherit, including destruction of air and water, more severe weather patterns, worsening droughts, devastation to American communities, and a dismal outlook for the American economy.

“2020 is too late to wait,” urged Borah.

Earlier in the week, the head of the European Parliament’s delegation to the summit Jo Leinen expressed his frustration by the stalemate, also referred to by another official as a “ping-pong game” between the U.S. and China that is unacceptable and intolerable.

Leinen, who chairs the European Parliament’s environmental committee, noted that China had for the first time indicated that it might be willing to take on binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but only after 2020. However, he did not see any such commitment from the U.S. “The one is not yet ready, and the other is not willing,” Leinen said.

On Borrowed Time

Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change, argues that “the Cancun commitments, and the ones made at Copenhagen (in 2009) cover 80 percent of global emissions and while they are not legally binding, they are politically and morally binding.”

Yet, the U.S. youth at COP17 claim that they are inheriting a big mess.

“An impossible burden is being put upon us,” says MJ Shiao, who is 26 years old and is a member of the youth delegation SustainUS. He thinks the U.S. operates on fear-driven politics rather than science and solutions.

“They are borrowing time at the expense of my generation. If we don’t peak our emissions in the next five years, what are we supposed to do? The main thing is that we just want to have a fighting chance by the time we are in positions of leadership.”

Canadian youth also made their presence felt at COP17 with several getting ejected earlier this week as Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent delivered his opening address. Just as Kent began his speech, six stood and turned away from the Minister revealing the message “Turn your back on Canada” prominently displayed on their shirts. These young people have challenged their leaders’ negotiation strategies, the close relationship between Canada’s climate policy and dirty fossil fuels, and the lobbying to lower fuel quality regulations to allow the expansion of the Alberta tar sands.

At COP 17, climate injustice is being addressed from all sides, including gender, race, geography, poverty, and the rights of nature itself.

The world’s youth are recognizing the magnification within their lifetime of all of the above, which is denying them the kind of world that has been enjoyed by those making — or not making — the decisions.

There might be hope. COP president, South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane assured that COP 17 would involve younger delegations. Already, more than 150 of them have been accredited. “The decisions we make today will not affect us, you will inherit that legacy,” she emphasized.

And the nearly 200 countries at COP17 have reached a deadline to broker a deal on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Connie Hedegaard, European climate change commissioner, says that countries unwilling to make commitments for the years to come are taking on ‘an almost unbearable responsibility’ for consequences that are sure to prove catastrophic.

Readers: Will the U.S. youth’s activism be enough to nudge the status quo?

Can developed and developing countries find common ground?

By CSRwire Contributing Writer Martha Shaw

The 19th annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) opened with hopes countries will agree on policy decisions that will significantly improve the safe use of chemicals, management of waste, safety in mining, efficiency of transport and reduction of the world’s consumption of Earth’s materials. Annual CSD meetings seek to promote more sustainable use of Earth’s resources. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, warned of the consequences of unsustainable consumption and production on the world’s ecosystems. Member States are being urged to agree on a plan to promote more efficient and safer use of chemicals and waste.

“We need to change our consumption and production patterns so that our economies proceed on sustainable paths, and so that we are able to address key global challenges like climate change, water and other resource scarcities, and environmental degradation,” said Mr. Sha Zukang.

“Globally, unsustainable consumption and production threatens to exceed the carrying capacity of life support systems,” Mr. Sha told the 53-member body. “This imbalance is obvious – whether measured by greenhouse gas concentrations, by the number of endangered species, by rates of deforestation, or by decreases in fish stocks.”

Mr. Sha expressed his hope the CSD will launch an ambitious framework to support countries’ and other actors’ move towards sustainable consumption and production, adding that such an initiative would send the right message and generate positive momentum towards a successful outcome at next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.

He noted a 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP on SCP) would promote development that is within the carrying capacity of ecosystems and contribute to progress on the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

“Much more can and must be done across the globe to pursue inclusive and environmentally sound economic growth. We must accelerate our efforts to advance sustainable development and to meet our commitments to future generations,” said Mr. Sha, who also serves as Secretary-General of the conference set to take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, known as Rio+20.

Dan Shepard, a United Nations information officer for UN Department for Public Information (UNDPI) commented, “If this commission can agree on a 10-year program, this will guide countries and individuals to help create an ecosystem that will reduce waste. I think that countries know what needs to be done. At CSD-19, they will be discussing how they can do it on a collective basis. I think the decisions that come from this meeting will form the vital building blocks for the Rio+20 conference.”

Joan Kirby, a representative from a non-governmental organization to CSD-19, commented, “The best thing would be agreements between the developed and developing world. The divide persists.”

Close to 1,000 representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other parts of civil society are attending the Commission’s two-week meeting, which is the lead-in to Rio+20.

Rio+20 will mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development that was agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

About Martha Shaw

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

Women on the road to Rio+20 convene at United Nations CSD-19.

After three days at the 19th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19), I began thinking about how important women’s leadership is to the tiered mission of Rio+20 also known as Earth Summit 2012 to help create a global green economy, and alleviate poverty.

Over the course of the prep meetings earlier this year, and during CSD-19 this week, it became more clear to me why women need to have more control over the Earth’s resources and the new technologies that can help to provide clean water, clean energy, clean air, and clean agriculture. With more power and training in the hands of women, particularly in developing countries, there will be more jobs for women, healthier communities, more education for girls, and population stabilization. With so much data that proves that women have a better track record for paying back micro-loans (even at higher rates), for protecting resources, and for investing money in their families and communities, it makes sense that empowering women is critical to the Rio+20 mission.

On May 4th, the Democracy and Gender Equality Roundtable was held by UN Women, simultaneous to CSD-19. I was struck by the statistics that show how unrepresented women are in managerial roles in all walks of life, from board rooms to government positions. Worse than I thought actually. Without a seat at the table, women can have no voice. Some of the developing countries where families rule, presented another glitch. In these countries, when women are put in positions of power, it is often as a surrogate of their husbands and fathers. Questions were asked. Is this better or worse?

I was reminded of the t-shirt worn by my friend, Jody Weiss, CEO of Peacemaker “Cause-metics” that reads, “I want my million bucks.” The slogan refers to a factoid she offered that over the course of one’s lifetime, women in the same job make about $1 million dollars less than a comparable man. And Trish Karter, of Dancing Deer Bakery, standing on her head to show how upside down the proportion of women to men on boards is, and why turning this around can make a big difference in the world. One look at the speaker list at energy and oil conferences tells us where the power lies. As an affirmative action baby myself, I know I wouldn’t have gotten my first job as a research diver for the State of California if there wasn’t a quota to fill. But, as an ice diver, I was just as qualified as the male applicants. They just had never considered a woman before. I wondered about where I’d be? In the back office typing memos for my boss?

On Thursday, May 5, I was invited by Osprey Orielle Lake to a Forum hosted by her Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus, a gem of a side event beyond the walls of the United Nations, out there past the row of flags where women are collaborating to gain traction around climate change and other environmental issues. Which, incidentally, adversely affect women and children more than men. The Forum focused on global topics around water and food security, with presenters from NGOs and businesses, including my friend Ann Goodman, Executive Director of Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF), Joji Carino of Tebtebba Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre, Donna Goodman, Director of Earth Child Institute, Anita Wenden of International Peace Research Association, and Bridget Burns, Program Director of WEDO – Women’s Environment and Development Organization. This group of impressive women shared stories and strategies for adapting to and mitigating climate change.

From there, I was cordially invited to a WEDO reception on Lexington Avenue, and some of us walked there together on what I would call an empowerment high. For me, WEDO was like discovering a treasure trove of international mentors and luminaries. Among other things, these highly educated and talented women have been working for twenty years to ensure that the environmental activities at the UN, benefit by a woman’s touch, or stronghold. Throughout the 1990’s WEDO played a key leadership role to ensure that gender was included in the outcomes of major UN conferences. In 2006, it was recognized with the Champions of the Earth award by UNEP and in 2010, WEDO received the Advocacy Award from the National Council for Research on Women. Their 20th anniversary conference will coincide with Rio+20.

As the event wound down, Elizabeth “Liz” Thompson arrived, the Co-Coordinator of Rio+20. I can say I slept a little easier that night, knowing the Earth was in better hands than I thought.