Who failed in Rio? The public sector, not the private

Who failed in Rio? The public sector, not the private

Global corporations and NGOs made commitments towards environmental protection and poverty reduction at the Rio+20 conference. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cgiarclimate/7415461108/sizes/m/in/photostream/">CGIAR Climate (flickr)</a>
Global corporations and NGOs made commitments towards environmental protection and poverty reduction at the Rio+20 conference. Photo: CGIAR Climate (flickr)

Government negotiations largely failed at the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development last month. But private sector players led the way with strong commitments for the immediate future.

According to NextBillion.net, it was the emergence of agreements among companies, NGOs, and other private sector players that became the “main event” at the conference.

The Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum brought commitments towards lower environmental impacts and poverty eradication from major global companies, including Norwegian oil giant Statoil, Bank of America, Siemens and Unilever.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said that lack of ambition by politicians places even more of a responsibility on the business community, according to The Guardian.

We are entering a very interesting period of history where the responsible business world is running ahead of the politicians. The political climate is very difficult and to some extent paralysed.

Amongst business there is now a critical mass forming around deforestation and energy for all, as companies say we cannot continue like this.

Just one of many examples from the forum: Siemens announced its launch of a recycling and environmental education project on Rio de Janeiro’s Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

The 'Our Lagoon is for Fish' Project is looking to contribute to environmental education and the recuperation of the lagoon, as well as generating income for the local community.

Amidst criticisms that governments didn’t do enough at Rio+20, it seems that stronger leadership for sustainable development is now coming from the private sector. And while companies’ actions are nice, political action is needed, too, since the world won’t be saved one lagoon at a time.

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