I am so pleased to share the trailer for the film “Planetary” with you which was released on EARTH DAY — 22 APRIL 2015. Here is what the film promises: “We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins as a species.”
The President of the Bolivian National State starts with a passionate speech criticizing the conference to abuse the environment to serve the goals of all players. He says that the resolution wants weak states with weak institutions. He makes a number of examples of how Bolivia is different in how it assures a harmonious life of all people and the planet. He says that Bolivia has passed a law two days ago that foresees the assurance of the well-being of Mother Earth, its restoration of health if needed. He demands other developing countries also re-privatize its own resources. Before he became president, water and electricity was privatized in Bolivia, now they have recuperated most of their own resources. He concludes by clarifying that for him, “green economy” is a new form of colonialism!
The President of Ecuador follows just as passionately highlighting the difference of CO2 emission between the 20% poorest vs. the 20% richest countries: for every ton of CO2 emission of the poorest countries, the richest countries use 83 tons! He criticizes the mechanism for the Kyoto protocol pointing out important loopholes such as the fact that governments were not compensated for maintaining forests, but paying for reforestation if forests have been cut down and sold and need to be reconstructed. He demands a compensation for not exploiting the 14 billion dollar equivalent underground oil reserves and therefore not causing CO2 emissions by leaving the resources in the ground. Ecuador has demanded that every nations recognizes the rights of mother Earth, that nature is not an object but a subject! He is frustrated that this suggestion was rejected. He concludes by saying that the root of the problem is in Europe and the U.S. where money rules nature. And that it is a big tragedy that the problems we face is not a technical one – we can safe the planet and all live well – but a political one. He reminds his fellow statesman of the girl from New Zealand who spoke yesterday asking that rather than saving their face, they save the planet. He highlights that 80% of the countries that have just attended the G20 summit in Mexico are not attending the Rio+20 conferences and don’t even care enough about our planet to come and save their face!
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…
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.
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!