Sanjeeb Kakoty, a dear friend of mine at the IIM Shillong business school, who has also contributed to our 50+20 initiative shares an impressive account of how a community comes about to join in a shared effort to construct together a community center – with every family contributing at least 1 member for a free days of labor to make this happen.
A wonderful account of one of the many miracles that are happening around the world every day and that we know nothing about. Watch this 7 min. video to get a feel for it:
A high-level session hosted by the Danish prime minister and the President of South Korea and the Mexican Minister of the Environment filling in for his president and Unilever CEO Paul Polman. The Danish and South Korean statesmen make an unlikely couple: a beautiful, young and tall blond lady and a small, restrained, nearly introverted gentleman. They jointly present the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) as an innovative international action-oriented platform in service of a future “we want”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is absent as is the Mexican Prime Minister who had just hosted the G20. After short statement, the South Korean Prime Minister and his delegation leaves. When will the discussion start?
We learn that the heads of state have somewhat unexpectedly already approved the proposed new document generated by the Brazilian a day ahead of schedule. They seem to have followed the recommendation of the delegates who had unanimously approved the overnight effort of the Brazilians to save the conference a few days ago. This is certainly weird and a major disappointment for many. Weird because the procedure of the state addresses is still going on in the main hall of the conference. And a major disappointment as the concerns of minorities both in the global South as well as other major groups (NGO, youth, women, etc.).
Paul Polman points out that the agreement falls short of the expectations as it lacks clearly defined goals and measures to be achieved. Clear words that express a broad general sentiment. The Danish prime minister says she is “moderately satisfied” with regards to the outcomes of the RIO+20 conference. She underlines the importance of having green economy recognized as the way forward and clarified that setting a new high level global governance framework is a first step in a longer process. She reminds us that we will need everybody will now have to go and apply the notions now, and business most particularly. Paul Polman highlights that there is a lot of energy in the private sector as a result of the RIO+20 conference with many important initiatives now emerging.
Three goals (universal access to energy by 2023, providing 3 billion people with modern cooking fuel, minimize adverse environmental externalities) in the energy are about to be agreed on and supported across all sectors. The head of UNIDO clarifies that it will take 48 billion a year for the next 20 years is needed to achieve this. This money must come from the private sector and governments seem confident that corporations will provide this cash-flow. The conversation turns on money, the financial crisis and the need for public subsidies. Polman demands transparency and points out the 33 trillion of asset from 1100 organizations reporting in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as a start to provide the kind of transparency that is needed to succeed.
Paul Polman states that business responds best to signals from the market which are reflected by investors. He demands new measures for evaluating the real value of a company and challenges the investment community to come up with relevant new measures. This and signs from the consumers will be much more relevant and appropriate than broad subsidies. Not everybody on the panel agrees. Polman concludes by stressing also the importance of supporting the youth and congratulates the Higher Education Initiative (HEI) which gained 47 more signatures during this conference reaching now more than 300 universities. BSL was among the first dozen universities to sign this important initiative which is supported by our World Business School Council for Sustainable Business.
In the middle of the closing remarks there is a commotion at the back of the room: Ban Ki-moon walks in. As there is no spare chair for him, everybody jumps up and leaves the panel, leaving the UN Secretary General sitting quite lonely up front. Tony-Schmidt who is by now called the fairytale godmother of Sustainability. Ban Ki-moon thanks her for demanding that the UN leads the global governance framework and that he takes this very seriously.
It becomes increasingly difficult to listen to Ban Ki-moon, as loud, disruptive voices reach us from the outside where a demonstration must be gaining force and size. In the intimate setting of a quite inappropriately tiny room for such a high-level session, we wonder what expects us outside. It feels like I am on the other side suddenly, on the inside fearing demonstrations outside, whereas so far I have been on the outside doing the rebelling with our guerilla business school of 50+20.
Rio Dialogues offers a public debate on the critical topic “water” on at RioCentro. Dialogues is a public direct democratic initiative by the Brazilian government as their contribution to RIO+20. In the main auditorium there is a highly diverse and young crowd of approx. 1000 delegates and representatives of all walks of life from around the world. A rowdy crowd that is alive and present! The former president of Brazil who presided over Rio 1992 was booed out when honored. Right thereafter, the top Chief Sustainability Officer of Coca-Cola was speaking – and the electricity in the room is palpable, yet nobody booed, maybe because his speech is very correct? Yet, what about the need to walk the talk?
The session offers an important outcome and is important as we will select 3 recommendations from the 10 most voted items through a democratic process in the past 10 days. Much energy focusses on the pre-sentiment that government is trying to get away from the 2010 declaration on the right of water for everybody. The choice ranges from securing access to water, to implementing the right to water to improving water sanitation to ensure that education of children. In contrast to yesterday’s people summit at the Flamenco Park, here the urgency and the importance is palpable. It is my generation who is here: many many young faces and at least half of them women! Maybe I have finally found a place where people want to meet to change the world!?
It is difficult to find the list of the panel in the maze of the RIO+20 and I am lacking references here. A high-level African quotes an important saying:
“if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” to express his hopes for RIO+20.
He suddenly stops mid-phrase when the King of Sweden steps in with his guards and joins the audience. Shortly thereafter, Mohamed Munif turns things serious when he talks about water contamination in Bangladesh.
The representative of the World Water Council wants engagement not just words. They demand that all countries in the world inscribes the right to water in their constitutions. Today, only 1 nations has done so. They also demand that as of tomorrow no single school rests without a water tab and toilets. Today, 60% of African schools are without access to water. In the other hand, they want action to ensure that more only food but also water is provided to disaster zones. We must restore the safety of water to the level we have inherited it from our ancestors. Water security founds the very basis of human survival. It is estimated that by 2020, the world needs 45% more water than today. According to the rule of 3, only oxygen is more important to human survival than water. Already today, 890 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water.
The UNCG Corporate Sustainable Forum is also under attack: the trade union representative accuses corporations to have failed on all 3 pillars of sustainability: economy, social and environment. He turns to his fellow panellist from Coca-Cola and says:
“I cannot believe that Coca-Cola will ever agree not to want to sell more Coke!”
The lady from India raises the challenge by stating that India is facing a 79% increase in water needs while at the same time facing a reduction of over 40% in the next decade. She says that we are not horrified enough that 2 billion have no access to sanitation and this impacts mostly women in the global South. She clarifies that the solutions of the North do not work for the South. While in India, the daily water consumption is around 18 litre per capita (lpc), in China the water needs are raising to 80-100 lpc in the next decade. In contrast, the USA uses 570 lpc today, which may go down to 440 lpc at best, but is way out of any sustainable future. She insists on home grown solutions based on ancient wisdom from the global South.
“There is enough for everybody’s need but more enough for anybody’s greed” (Gandhi).
After introductions, Jeff Seabright of Coca-Cola is put in the hot seat: “can we reconcile economic growth with the needs of water, and if so how?” He does not expand beyond politically correct but otherwise irrelevant answer. Munif suggests that beyond forcing governments, we need wide-spread citizen engagement to ensure the right to water and sanitation also locally. He also connects the importance of the water issue with global warming and raising sea levels which endanger many regions, and in particular Bangladesh. Two indigenous women from Mexico turn the atmosphere chilly when they point out the lack of consideration and consultation in the decision- making process around water. A 13 year old indigenous girl asks for clear strategies on how to ensure that this will be assured.
The audience present selects as their urgent recommendation to implement the right to water as their first priority. The bigger question of course is what government will do with this. The current update is that there will be no consensus reached, with only 40% of the draft even discussed and no agreement achieved to date. Tomorrow, the top government negotiations with the heads of states start…
At Rio Centro, many thousands of delegates, media and major groups (women, labour, youth, business, labour, etc.) representatives are meeting to discuss the challenges we face. What a nice change from the 5-star experience at the Windsor Barra, the temporary home to 2,700 business executives. Finally we had some relevant and engaged discussion about important and urgent topics – food for the brain and soul!
A session sponsored by the Ford Foundation on building and creating just cities pointed out an important new paradigm: we need to look at the arrival of poor emigrants in a city as an opportunity rather than as a problem, like in the 60s and 70s. Addressing the issue of mobility linking housing with work place is also critical.
Naturally, there are fears about the political instability that results from many new low-income emigrants. Yet, there is a proven, direct connection between general income inequality and political instability. Investments by foundations are, as such, risk money. We need to take risks to ensure we limit and reduce inequality, activities and investments that support this.
The latest thinking highlights the importance of non-government associative housing projects. Another related paradigm shift is the need to understand that the different interests for different city spaces need to be transformed from competing interest to combined interests. The effect of moving favelas (slums) into different areas has long proven to be a disastrous strategy. In Rio, an unknown amount of economic activity and value-added activity of low-income areas was wiped out when the neighbourhoods were relocated to create space for competing interests, such as commercial buildings. So-called informal settlements are very vulnerable to being relocated, often not only temporarily but (as an example given again from Rio) for a period of 50 years – a sad series of undisputed discriminatory deeds!
A great take-away quote from Luis Ubinas, President of the Ford Foundation: “Let’s not call investing in low-carbon public transportation solutions a courageous act, it would rather be courageous or stupid not to do so… much like playing Russian roulette with our future!”
In conclusion, a related side comment from one of the panelists (the official list is hopelessly outdated, listing NYC Mayor Bloomberg who is nowhere nearby) who reminds us that rural poverty is even worse than urban poverty as it also concerns social exclusion and is mostly hidden and invisible to the public eye. What a most relevant and engaged session – I feel as being part of a group of people who cares with a sense of urgency. What a relief!
“Today is not just another day and not just another conference. Today, we present to you the result of two years of voluntary work by many many passionate people who deeply care about ensuring that business schools and management education truly contribute to a better world. In this process, John Cimino’s song the CALL which he just performed has been our inspiration to be daring and courageous.
I was 22 years old when the original Rio conference took place in 1992. I was studying business at BSL, the school I now run as a Dean. Stephan Schmidheiny‘s book “changing course” changed my life. While I was environmentally conscious in my private life, my experience at work had taught me that I better leave personal interests at home and be strictly “professional” at work. With Rio 92, I sensed a new world opening up – one where I could integrate my personal passion into my professional work and help companies to become sustainable.
Today is not business as usual. We need something different from the usual conference debates. We have seen and heard all this before … The same words, the same arguments. We are busy rearranging deck chairs while the titanic is sinking! This cannot be another Copenhagen! The stakes are simply too high. The time is up – it is OUR generation and this is OUR time. We are the ones, who need to drop what we do, reflect and take courageous steps in a new, right direction. Now!
50+20 is a collaboratory, an open-source effort of GRLI, the WBSCSB and UN PRME. Our aim was to come up with a radically new vision for management education. A vision that started by asking big questions, like
– what kind of a world do we want?
– what does this mean for the kind of society we will need?
– what is the role of business and the economy in this?
– and what should business contribute to such a new world?
– what kinds of leaders do we need to achieve such a transformation?
– and as a result, what would that mean for management education?
We worked in a collaborative process with people around the world, including more than 100 thought leaders. Many people in this room have been involved in ways large and small. And we invite you all to stand up.
Together we created a vision beyond incremental change. Management education FOR the world, management education in service of the common good. We see 3 fundamental roles. We reframe education, we give a concrete purpose to research and we introduce public engagement as a new responsibility for business schools.
This is about new benchmarks and the benches you see here symbolize that. They have been created by artists around the world from re-cycled materials. We invite you to look at them, sit in them and feel the creativity and the fire for a socially just and environmentally sustainable future they embody.
Today, right here, right now we officially release the 50+20 Agenda. Here it is in physical form.
Digitally it’s in the conference documents and online at 50plus20.org. Its the start – we have developed a process of engagement, there will be a book in the fall, there are over 100 emerging benchmarks on the website which may serve to inspire. We have worked hard to strip out the
greenwashing the blue washing and well meaning intentions.
But what matters is not what others do, it is your engagement and whether we personally take up the challenge of service to mankind. If you share the passion to drive deep change and would like to take action in an advanced community please give me or Katrin your business cards.
So now we bring you the voices and faces from around the globe who have helped us define the 50+20 vision. Turn off your email open your hearts and souls, and enjoy what the people out there have to say to us.
Finally, the moment arrived. We met the members of the 50+20 team on the beach in front of the Windsor Barra. People flew in from all over and we even managed to bring a bench from South Africa which we assembled. 9 other benches are being assembled.
The security measures are very impressive: the marine has boats in front of the beach, helicopters are circulating, soldiers on the roofs and beach front.
But, our mood is excellent: we have received the scarves made out of recycled PET bottles and cotton (see picture) and are a bit overwhelmed by the volume and weight.
So, after a few beers and caiphirinia’s and pizzas, we feel ready to start the conference.
In order to offer a concrete experience of our 50+20 vision (see www.50plus20.org) our team has organized a series of collaboratory events during the RIO+20 conference. Imagine the collaboratory as a circular space where stakeholders meet on an equal basis to address burning issues that concern society either locally, globally or both. The discussion is facilitated with open space and consciousness-building technologies and offers a concrete new possibility for education and research.
As we prepare for these sessions, we are considering what big issues we should address to contribute to RIO+20. To me, the real challenge for the conference is a lot more profound than the emerging buzzwords like yesterday’s speech from Ban ki-Moon stating that “we need to combine growth with social inclusion” and of course pay attention to do so “within the limits of the planet”. Well, these are either empty words or may well be a contradiction in terms (an oxymoron). What we need is a world where 9 billion people live well and within the limits of the planet (WBCSD vision 2050).
Now, what I would like to know is how we are planning to achieve this. What does this mean for us in Europe, what does this mean for people in Brazil, China, Australia. Not in 2050 but for the coming decade. How do we have to change to make this seemingly impossible goal work if already today we as a global community use resources every year that are equivalent to what takes our planet Earth 1.35 years to regenerate. And we are just at 7 billion people today. With 2 billion people in emerging countries expecting to join the global middle class. Or, as our Brazilian friends have pointed out: “you are not going to tell the people here that they can’t get their refrigerator they’ve been waiting for so desperately.” Well, of course not as well as we cannot imagine prescribing our U.S. friends to at least return to a European level of Ecological Footprint (EFP), i.e. achieving a 50% reduction.
Indeed, the real challenge and the unspoken problem of RIO+20 – and our global community – is that nobody can actually envision discussing what needs to be addressed: what efforts are required by which regions to make it together? It would be pure and simple political suicide for every government to return with such a task and challenge. Yet, what happens if we don’t discuss it? I cannot even imagine what it takes to get there even if everybody would and could collaborate… If however we cannot even openly address the real issue at the one and only place we MUST discuss and resolve such issues, then I start to really wonder what kind of miracle we are counting on!
Let me try to understand the size of the challenge. I guess we will be 8 billion by around 2025 with most of the poorest 4 billion expecting to make significant shifts out of poverty and half of them joining the global middle class. We must integrate this additional billion within our global community while reducing non- or slow-renewable the resources by 35% as compared to our global footprint in 2011. Is this fear for not getting this growth that represents the biggest emotional stumbling block for nations in the so-called South in RIO+20 intergovernmental negotiations, prompting Ban ki-Moon’s above welcome speech. Yet, the challenge does not lie exclusively in the South. It is really the 2 billion on top of the pyramid, living in the “North-West” (i.e. in Western developed countries) that have created the problem of our planetary overshoot of 35% in the first place. So the half a billion North Americans, the half a billion European and the other billion of people living too well in various other developed countries, regions or cities around the world need to significantly reduce their footprint.
The 2000 Watt society is an old Swiss concept developed in the early nineties between the ETH Zurich and the economy. The idea was that we must create options for a life worth living that does not consume more than 2000 Watt of energy per person (Wapp). Currently, in Switzerland, we are at 4000 Wapp, yet we know how we could make it at 2000 and we are working on making it happen. Zero energy and positive energy housing is a big part of this. But cleaning up the mobility footprint is another big issue. I am sitting in a plane fro Sao Paulo to Rio and you know what I mean…. CO2 emissions! So, if we in Europe need to half our footprint, whether measured in Wapp, EFP or CO2 or Water footprint, North America is challenged to reduce its footprint by 75%. Wow, you may say. I want to know what I can do (other than jumping out of the air plane) and how I can get my life on track. I am willing and able and hopefully so are my other billion or two lucky wealthy fellow citizens. I am actually looking forward to envision measures that will slow down my crazy pace, that shift my focus from material to immaterial and inner wealth and that rebalance the lost equilibrium between time and money.
The challenge for emerging and developing countries is clearly a different one. They need to figure out how they can reach a comfortable life that satisfies human development in terms of learning, engagement and fulfilment while assuring basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, medical and social care. For this, they will generate what we have come to known as “growth”, i.e. activities that are measured through GDP and the likes. Yet, they cannot repeat the errors of the Northwest. Air-conditioning in the hotel in Sao Paulo forced me to walk around in all my sweaters I brought – totally crazy as we are in the cold and damp winter season here anyway. Yes, they do need their fridge but they need a fridge that uses as less energy as possible. And again, I wonder, what can a Brazilian expect as her development both in material and immaterial nature in the coming decades. Which dreams will she have to give up, which new ones may she learn to discover and embrace? And how can she and I, sisters in a small world, support another and respect the diversity and limits of the planet we inhabit? This is the answer I would like to have by the end of this conference.
I woke up to a grey and rainy skyline of the outskirts of Sao Paulo. During my breathing exercise I reflected on the many million of my fellow global citizens who will leave their homes in the country side to join cities like this. Apartment blocks lined up until the distant horizon in a general hazy, grey heavy and overcast sky. The heavy rainstorm suited that mood well. Are we crazy? Who on earth would in her right mind design such a picture of inhuman living cut off from nature as the dream of so many of us with otherwise limited futures?
Why do we design and build cities for our fellow citizens to live and work in that offer subhuman conditions and that are totally disconnected from nature. If I was an alien visiting planet Earth, I would seriously wonder what the inhabitants had in mind when they figured out how to live together. Somehow our societal governance structures don’t operate in the best interest of all. Why do we accept this? And what if we could and would actually start doing something about this?
I started my part of the 50+20 pre-RIO conference with this picture of the Sao Paulo skyline which I took this morning. I talked about where we as a global community are today versus where we need to get to to ensure that the 9 billion of us will be living well and within the limits of the planet (as per vision 2050 of the WBCSD). Nobody took offence. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have to spend more than a short moment on why we need a better world, new societies and as a result a new role for business. Swiss ambassador Meier who opened for us set the stage by highlighting all the things that are going wrong today and everybody was nodding. Given that this was the first time we talked about our project in front of a non-captive audience of mostly business executives, this was significant. There was no question about the fact that business must contribute to society and the common good. But: there was much blame on “others” and much frustration about things not going fast enough.
Thomas Dyllick from the University St. Gallen and I had lunch with Angelica Rotondaro who runs the St. Gallen hub here. She is doing a great job finding internships for St. Gallen students who want to experience the NGO or SME worlds in South America. She has an amazing network of social entrepreneurs in the fair-trade sector and she shares her challenges with us. Before long, we are in the burning issues of the agricultural world. I can’t help it but I get mad every time I reflect on the abuse that is taking place around GMO seeds of just about anything by now. The importance of fair-trade as a small but important new growth development supporting small regional farmers in their nearly impossible struggle against the multinational superpowers.
The other main issue that comes up today is the big difference between the challenges of developed vs. developing countries. As Julia von Maltzan Pacheco of University FGV points out correctly, people here in Brazil are craving for getting to the lifestyle we have achieved in the North or West (I am coining Northwest as a global new term for the developed world). People in the South and the East want that refrigerator, that car and that TV they have been longing for. We cannot tell them that “growth” is not sustainable (even if it isn’t). As Martin Bernard from Amrop points out: “there is no such thing as sustainable growth, the planet does have finite limits”. Well, we cannot even publicly say that to the folks in the Northwest! I liked Christian Cetera’s perspective (Director Training & Development of GE for South America) who humbly stated that his organization is nowhere despite having achieved an unheard of shift in their business reducing their financial services business from 55% to less than 15% of their net profits. While GE defines their ideal manager today very different from the days of Jack Welsh, he concludes that GE “has a long way to go.”
I walk away from our presentation happy with the unilaterally positive reaction of our vision. I also realize that we need to ensure that our audience understands that we have completed but the first step in a long journey: we propose a far-out, new vision that now needs concrete next steps in order to generate action and a relevant pace to realize it. We have passed the “fire drill” or “dry run” and are now ready for RIO+20!
As I stand in the long line before for the security check it hits me: the moment has finally come and nothing but a 12 hour flight separates me from actually being in Rio! 12 hours is a long time and I wonder if we can really justify the negative environmental impact we cause with our travels to go to a sustainability conference. I ask my travel companion if he chose the carbon offset option that was offered when we registered for the conference. He tries to remember. Well, I didn’t offset and suddenly feel kind of guilty about it. My president, who is also coming to Rio, chose to pay for the $40 carbon offset charge. I remember how surprised I was and how stupid I felt. Part of the reason why I declined the charge was my insecurity about how my institution would feel if I chose to incur such a voluntary expense. While the environment is personally important to me, I was not sure I could actually impose this sensitivity on my work. My colleague sheepishly admits that he also did not choose to offset. We wonder why!? If we, two environmentally conscious, comfortably employed academics specialized in Responsibility and Sustainability wont do the carbon offset, who will? When booking Easyjet, we have a choice to pay more for the offset, so far I never clicked on the option. Making a “donation” which is how offsetting carbon feels like right now is contrary to the spirit I am in when booking a low-cost airfare. My money-saving mode prevents me from doing what is right.
When we dig deeper, we identify another disruptive emotion that perverts us: when paying an indecently low amount for a flight (Easyjet and co.) we somehow refuse to donate money without knowing what is going to happen to it. My colleague ventures that there are questions like “where is the money going?” and “will it be used in a sensible way?” suddenly come up. Not that such questions aren’t justified, but would we ask them before making a carbon-offset contribution while we don’t ask them for other expenditures. Not really consistent! I, for one, don’t consistently ask where some of the clothes I buy are made and under what conditions.
We further explore, what would change if we could choose where our money ended up?If, for example, we could select between investments to ensure biodiversity, reforestation, revamping production in the Northern hemisphere or social enterprises in emerging countries. What bothers me in particular is the idea that such donations at least partially end up in contributing to expand our already out-of-hand consumption pattern. I don’t want to support new innovations of even more stuff that I don’t need, even if it has a significantly improved carbon-footprint compared to the previous year’s gadgets I already didn’t really need. I realize that I don’t really know what projects can get funding from these offsets. I should read up on this on “my climate”. While it is critical to significantly reduce our footprint, we can’t fool ourselves by believing that investing in green growth will get us there. We in the wealthy West or North must fundamentally rethink how we want to live, what is important to our quality of life and as a result how we want to spend our personal resources (time, energy, money, and share of mind and heart) to live well and within the limits of our planet.
I recognize very humbly that I have a long way to go before I will be the kind of role model I would like to be. But, let us start talking about what we can do in every aspect of our life’s. And now that I am en route to Rio, my determination to make the best out of it increases by the hour. Two year’s ago we promised the U.N. a scandal and today we are ready to deliver it. Back in November 2010, I made that promise to the U.N. division in charge of the business sector (UNGC), namely to help save the RIO+20 conference with a significant, important contribution. With a scandal. What I had meant with it was that we would work on a radically new vision of how management education would contribute in all possible ways to a world worth living in. Already in 2010, it was rumoured that the 20th anniversary of the original Rio Earth Summit may well become another Copenhagen. A large scale disappointment. It became apparent that governments would not be able to agree on the kind of break-through agreements needed to assure the future of our planet. The private sector and namely business would have to make the difference.