ICC Document & publication

ICC Rio plus 20 Business Guide (2012)

This business guide aims to facilitate participation for business and other stakeholders at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

In June 2012, world leaders will gather in Rio for the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which produced Agenda 21, the first comprehensive global blueprint on sustainable development. This Conference is a time for the international community to reflect on what has been achieved and what has been left undone by the past generation.

Is Rio+20 important for business?

Since the first United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio in 1992, the role of business in sustainable development has changed considerably. Both the UNCSD and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+10) have led to the creation of concrete international frameworks and processes. These have mostly indirectly influenced the way business operates, such as the

  • Agenda 21
  • UNFCCC climate change process (e.g. Kyoto Protocol)
  • Convention on Biodiversity (CBD)
  • Global framework for sustainable production and consumption (SCP)
  • Sectorial frameworks, such as the Strategic Approach to Internationals Chemicals Management (SAICM)
  • Other national and regional legal frameworks

Business has already demonstrated considerable success in integrating sustainability into business practices, for example, via voluntary codes like the ICC Business Charter for Sustainable Development, which has provided thousands of large and small companies around the world with the basis for sound environmental management, and the ICC Ten conditions for a transition toward a Green Economy – a part of a longer term so-called “Green Economy Roadmap”. Other examples include reporting initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), standards and guidance such as ISO 14001, as well as voluntary sectorial approaches and “soft law” approaches such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Companies in all sectors have taken concrete actions, from reducing environmental impacts across value chains to increasing energy and resource efficiency, investing in low-carbon and renewable energy and reducing waste.

However, more needs to be done if we are to meet economic, developmental and environmental challenges. Efforts by all actors should reconcile the need for short and medium-term profit with longer-term systemic change. Economic growth is and will be essential to provide the resources and social equity necessary to build capacity and finance actions in a transition towards a “green economy”. A “green economy” must ultimately function in a self-sustaining way and become integrated in international and global markets.