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How to Ensure Green Businesses Have a Voice in Rio+20

Much of the action at the recent policy session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) took 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 concentrated on a global green economy, sustainable consumption and production, and related issues, there was 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 Dodds 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 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 International Chamber of Commerce, International Council of Chemical Associations 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, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Global Compact.

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.

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.

In wrapping up our conversation, I asked 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 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.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user j.reed.

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