REALISING INCLUSIVE AND GREEN GROWTH: UN Rio+20 Business & Industry Consultation with Government and Civil Society

Opening remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Honourable Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands,
Mr. Ben Knapen,
Excellencies, Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Secretary-General of the Rio+20 Conference, I am honored and pleased to welcome you to this high-level consultation of business and industry leaders, “Realising Inclusive and Green Growth”. 

I would like to thank the Netherlands for hosting and co-organizing this forum in partnership with Business Action for Sustainable Development – the umbrella organization of the business and industry – and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Let me thank all participants for demonstrating, by their presence, that business and industry — together with the other eight major groups of society — is strongly committed to sustainable development. 

The other major groups working for sustainable development are women, youth and children, workers and trade unions, scientific and technological community, farmers, indigenous peoples, local authorities and NGOs.

Working together, these nine major groups have become driving forces in sustainable development. 

Whatever progress we have made since Rio 1992, we would not have done it without the contributions of business and industry and other major groups.

But you can do more, as preparations for Rio+20 have shown.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said:  “Private business must step in and help governments come up with solutions for sustainable growth.”

The Netherlands, and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, consider it essential to consult business and industry.  

Certainly, we need to have a strong business and industry presence at Rio in June. The reasons should be well known.  But, allow me to mention just a few reasons as to ‘why’:  

  • Business leaders have the power to make decisions today, that can affect the planet, and its inhabitants, for decades. Few other non-state stakeholders have such a direct capacity to better manage the planet’s natural resources.
  • Business and industry play a leading role in providing employment and livelihood opportunities.
  • Business and industry can adopt and implement cleaner production technologies and greener value chains. Indeed, some pioneering corporations have already shown the way towards a greener, more just economy.


The business leaders in this room enthusiastically support sustainable development.  We count on you to persuade those companies that are less sensitized, that the sustainable development approach, is also a smart business choice.

One of the outcomes of Rio+20 will be a compendium of new and measurable commitments to make sustainable development a concrete reality. 

I hope that, at least, a thousand new initiatives will emerge, with many of these coming from business and industry.

Many among you are engaged in the Rio+20 process. You represent the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Global Compact, and other international associations. 

At Rio, 19 June will be “Business Day”. This is being organized by Business Action for Sustainable Development. Its aim is to allow a frank discussion between business and government leaders, and other civil society representatives. 

Another inter-sectoral dialogue will take place during the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, organized by the UN Global Compact, on 15 to 18 June.

These events, along with many others, will be your opportunity to persuade the public, and policy-makers, that business and industry can help accelerate the pace towards sustainable development. 


Allow me to brief you on the status of negotiations.  A 19-page “zero draft” issued in January was condensed from 6,000 pages of submissions from various stakeholders.

A large number of changes were introduced by governments during intense negotiations in March. The draft was significantly expanded, bringing the text, as it stands today, to over 200 pages.

The Co-chairs of the Preparatory Committee are pursuing consultations with the different negotiating groups. This will help streamline the text and build the consensus.

There is no doubt that member States want to make the best of Rio+20, and ensure that world leaders renew political commitment. 

Many delegations underscored the need for changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, and for building a sustainable future. 

Many argued that the outcome of Rio+20 should not be a mere repetition of Agenda 21, other treaties or agreed outcomes. 

Only 13 days of negotiations remain before the Conference. Negotiations resume on 23rd April.

Looking ahead, I am keenly aware of the complexities of the negotiations yet to come. But I remain confident that a powerful document will result.

I am very pleased to see calls for launching the process to arrive at Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The current draft identifies 26 critical areas for action, including: water… energy… food… jobs… cities… oceans… disaster preparedness… poverty eradication… tourism… transport… climate change… sustainable consumption and production… lands… chemicals… and forests, among others.

However, I have called on delegations to accomplish deliverables of fundamental significance to poverty reduction and the common wellbeing of all countries, especially on food, water and energy.

I have also invited them to prioritize emerging challenges, such as urbanization, jobs, oceans, and disaster risk reduction.

The draft outcome document calls on governments to work more closely with major groups such as business and industry. It encourages their participation in decision making, planning and implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable development. 

Another aspect relevant to your work is access to environmentally sound technology, and to ICT in developing countries.  The draft text acknowledges the role of business and industry through investment, research and development, resource efficiency, and trade. 

The draft calls on business and industry to show leadership through sustainable and inclusive business models and practices, environmental and social responsibility, and clean and safe products. And, to align with the principles of the UN Charter and the UN Global Compact.

There is a recognition of the need for a global system for national sustainability accounting and reporting. This can include strengthening existing mechanisms to incorporate sustainability criteria, into the business sector’s reporting practices. 

The “Vision 2050” report of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, contains “must have” items. These include empowerment and training, as well as active participation of women in the work force and as entrepreneurs.

On technology transfer, we need your help and guidance to find applicable solutions to handle the intellectual property dimension.  

  • For example, what do you recommend to increase capacity building in local enterprises, especially in developing countries? 

Research and development investments are critical to find solutions to advance sustainable development, a fact already acknowledged in Agenda 21. 

  • But where can we find the resources to fund this global transformation towards more inclusive green sustainable growth? 

Your views are also welcome on how to advance sustainable development at the local and national levels. 

  • For instance, how can we make small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) prosper, while becoming effective tools to preserve the environment and create local jobs?

Rio+20 is a critical step, but a step that must be followed by an intensive phase of implementation. Let me be clear: This requires that business and industry play a key role.  In this regard, allow me to ask further:

  • What are the four or five most important messages that you want to convey to governments? 
  • To achieve sustainable growth, what ideas for collaborative action would you recommend to initiate in Rio? 
  • What would you recommend governments do, in order to accelerate technology leapfrogging towards a more sustainable world?

Last but not least, the Rio+20 Secretariat warmly welcomes your feedback on this consultation. It also welcomes your participation in the Rio+20 process, indeed also in the post-Rio participation of major groups.


In closing, I wish to share with you a quote from a joint declaration that UN system chiefs have crafted:

And I quote: “Rio+20 must provide the roadmap to the future we want. A future with peace… dynamic economic and social development… universal social well-being… and a healthy and equitable environment… for present and future generations where women and men…, boys and girls equally contribute to and benefit from development.”

Let us work together to make this the future we want.

Thank you.