Rio+20: Be Bold, With Speed, At Scale

Innovation and collaboration to create the future we want was the overarching theme at the Corporate Sustainability Forum, led by the UN Global Compact as a lead up to the official Rio+20 Conference.

There was real excitement and optimism about the major commitment that companies were making – many in collaboration with other companies, governments, and NGOs.  There were over a 100 sessions addressing everything from agriculture and food to energy and climate, water and ecosystems to urbanization and cities.  Clearly all of these areas intersect, but in each area there were unique focuses that allowed participants to dive into more details on the challenges and opportunities.

In the agriculture and food security sessions, discussions focused on what is meant and ultimately how we can intensify production sustainably at all levels, from the small holder to large farms.  Challenges were iterated:  land ownership, lack of extension services, engaging youth to choose farming as a career, protecting biodiversity and other ecosystem services, waste generation in transport, storage, and by consumers, diets and nutrition.  Solutions were proposed and discussed:  drip irrigation, expanding of extension services with “train the trainer” initiatives, companies working directly at farm level to improve their supply chains, the right technology for the right location including seeds, fertilizers and crop protection chemicals, and infrastructure development to name just a few.  Many noted that we cannot have a sustainable world if we don’t have a sustainable agriculture sector, which reinforced the need to find the examples that are working and to learn from what hasn’t worked so well.

The Business Action for Sustainable Development, a collation of organizations including the WBCSD, ICC, UN Global Compact, and CropLife, followed up with an all-day session focused on scaling up – developing big commitments and then have the willingness to implement.  In other words – Be Bold, With Speed, at Scale.  It looks like there will be an outcome document from the Rio+20 process.  Some will conclude that it doesn’t go far enough and others will be concerned that it has gone too far.  Either way, there will be an ongoing official process that will look at moving the world towards a green economy with sustainable development goals.  In the meantime, the private sector is challenged to come out of Rio ready to implement all the commitments we made and prove that the business of “business” is sustainable business.

Dawn Rittenhouse and others at Rio+20 2012

— by Dawn Rittenhouse

Dawn Rittenhouse is Director, Sustainabilty for the DuPont Company.  She joined DuPont in 1980 and has held positions in Technical Service, Sales, Marketing, and Product Management within the Packaging and Industrial Polymers business and Crop Protection businesses.   In late 1997, she began working in the corporate organization to assist DuPont businesses in integrating sustainability strategies into their strategy and business management processes.  She leads DuPont’s efforts at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the United Nations Global Compact.   Dawn has a double major in Chemistry and Economics from Duke University.

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