Global Compact Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum Opening Plenary

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Delivered by Ms. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Coordinator

Distinguished guests,
Chief Executive Officers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be with you today.

I join the previous speakers in thanking the Global Compact Office for hosting and organizing this important and unique Forum.

Thank you also to the Business Action for Sustainable Development, the umbrella organization of the business and industry major group, and members of the UN system for your inputs.

I would also like to thank all of you – the participants – for your participation. 

Your being here demonstrates that business and industry — together with the other major groups stakeholders — is strongly committed to sustainable development. 

We cannot underestimate the importance of business and industry in our quest to seek a sustainable future.

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

The decisions business leaders make today can affect the planet and society for decades. 

Few other non-state stakeholders are in such a position. Your choices can directly lead to better management of the planet’s natural resources.

You can adopt and implement cleaner production technologies and greener value chains. 

And you can also play a leading role in providing employment and livelihood opportunities. 

Pioneering corporations – have already shown the way towards a greener economy. Such businesses are often led by visionary leaders and driven by socially conscious investors – many of them are in this room today.

Furthermore, they are growing in number.

We count on you to set an example for those companies that are lagging behind.

Tell them that the sustainable development approach is a smart business choice.

As you know, the world has been afflicted by recent economic and financial crises, as well as the cumulative impacts of environmental degradation.

We need your leadership now more than ever.

One of the outcomes of Rio+20 will be a compendium of new and measurable commitments from all sectors of society.

These commitments will help make sustainable development a concrete reality. 

My hope is that several hundred new sustainability initiatives and commitments will emerge.  And I expect many of them to come from business and industry.

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

This Forum, by bringing you together, represents a landmark opportunity for promoting the culture of sustainability, accountability and reporting within Business and Industry.

In addition, here in Rio, 19 June will be “Business Day”, organized by Business Action for Sustainable Development.

Setting aside this specific day will allow for greater interaction between business and government leaders and other civil society representatives. 

These events, along with many others, will be your opportunity to persuade the public and policy-makers that business and industry truly are part of the solution to accelerate the pace towards sustainability. 

With only a week left to the conclusion of the Rio+20 Conference, I am optimistic that we will achieve a significant outcome.

I am very pleased that there is already a consensus for launching the process to arrive at Sustainable Development Goals.

The current draft outcome text calls on business and industry to show leadership.

It asks for sustainable and inclusive business models and practices, corporate environmental and social responsibility, clean and safe products, and alignment with the principles of the UN Charter and the UN Global Compact.

The draft recognizes the need for a global system of national sustainability accounting and reporting. 

This would include strengthening existing mechanisms to incorporate sustainability criteria into the business sector’s reporting practices. 

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

Rio+20 is a once-in-a-generation milestone event.  But without an intensive phase of implementation, its impact will fall flat.

This is where you come in.

Business and industry must be a key actor in this implementation phase.  And you must be central in creating the future we want.

Ultimately, the real success of Rio+20 will be seen in the transformation it will set in motion.

You can be the leaders and drivers of that transformation.

Thank you.