How is the economic downturn affecting the sustainability goals of the international business community? During today's OnPoint, Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, gives his recommendations for the upcoming U.N. Rio+20 meeting and addresses concerns that the business community will slow its sustainability efforts in light of the economic downturn.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. Peter, thanks for coming on the show.
Peter Bakker: You're welcome.
Monica Trauzzi: Peter, you just participated in KPMG's Business Summit in preparation for the Rio+20 meeting that's happening this year. And heading into that meeting, what are the business community's top recommendations for how to move forward on sustainability goals?
Peter Bakker: Well, I think we need political leadership coming out of Rio. We need the sense of urgency and a real dialogue on the policies that are required to make business push the agenda forward. As business and speaking to the business leaders, I've called upon them to make commitments because we're at the moment in this inertia situation that business is waiting for policymakers to move, policymakers want business to do something. So I think we should set the first step. But, overall, the discussion really needs urgency.
Monica Trauzzi: And business always complains about the uncertainty, the lack of certainty that they are dealing with right now. But can a meeting like Rio+20 help give more certainty or is it really just going to be more about discussions and trying to move the discussion forward?
Peter Bakker: Yeah, I think over the last few years we are almost at fault of putting too much pressure on each of these meetings. If we want to make the world sustainable, it's a multiple-year journey. These meetings are important points in time to generate energy, to generate the dialogue, to create the urgency to move forward. I think this time we have a real opportunity to talk about the policy frameworks that we need. In the KPMG conference, on Monday I think it was, the secretary general opened the meeting saying we have a number of topics. He wanted business to come forward to give their commitments, which is a massive change from a few years ago when business wasn't really invited to the party. He also called upon us to talk about a global reporting framework, so to really go for, yeah, a journey on which we're going to change the accounting systems of companies to include sustainability measures. So overall, I think a couple of real new interesting elements.
Monica Trauzzi: There have been talks and calls to move away from the UN process because it's just too big and perhaps these issues need to be looked at and addressed on a smaller scale. What are your thoughts on that? Should there be another process involved in all of this?
Peter Bakker: I think there are many other processes already involved. I don't think we can do away with the UN process. If you look at sustainability, at environmental, at the global comments, whatever you want to call them, we need to have discussions at the global level. However, at the national level we need discussions as well. At the regional level, like the EU, many discussions are happening. So I think we're talking at multiple levels. Implementation will move mostly on national, even sometimes at city level, but I think it would be a mistake to move away from the UN process, as difficult and painful as it might sometimes be.
Monica Trauzzi: Is it possible for a country to reduce pollution and still drive growth? And if so, why have we seen so much resistance here in the United States to some of the air pollution rules that EPA has put in place?
Peter Bakker: It's absolutely possible, it's the green growth as we call it. I actually look at the world and, you know, we're involved in the World Business Council so we look in all parts of the world and how business is responding to the challenge that sustainability is posing. I see a green race is actually starting. If you look at countries like South Korea which have said they're going to be one of the leading economies in the world by greening their economy, if you look into the Chinese five-year plan, where the number two objective is to make China the greenest economy on the planet, if you look at the EU and the seriousness by which they approach their ETS system, even now including airlines in which they support the Kyoto Protocol, all kind of regions are doing their bits to move forward. And I've said yesterday in one of the panels in New York I'm concerned about the way that the United States and the states is beginning to fall back in this race. I look at the U.S. as the country which has brought more innovations than any country in the world in many areas of life. But in this particular area you seem to be getting stuck in your ways, which I think is very dangerous for the country and is not good for the world because really, if we want to make the world sustainable, we need the power that the U.S. can bring and the innovation that you guys normally bring.
Monica Trauzzi: The Danish currently hold the presidency of the European Union and they have an aggressive green agenda as part of that. Do you think it's possible to maintain such an aggressive agenda considering the economic downturn that Europe has seen?
Peter Bakker: Absolutely, yeah, I agree the Euro crisis is a big disruption and certainly deviates a lot of the attention of the politicians away also in Europe. But it's not a question whether it's possible to keep an aggressive agenda on sustainability. There is an absolute need to keep an urgency and big pressure on it. So I'm very pleased with the Danish being determined. They're very serious. If you look at their achievements in wind energy and creating renewable energy into their economy, it has proven that it's one of the stronger economies inside Europe, while working on this more sustainable energy agenda of theirs. I think the rest of Europe, and for that matter the rest of the world, can learn a lot from Denmark. So it's good to have a leader like that at the moment at the helm in Europe.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show, nice to see you.
Peter Bakker: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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