Sustainability and Green Leaders Meet with United Nations to offer representation at Rio+20.
By Martha Shaw and Aman Singh
Nearly 100 sustainable business leaders crowded onto the 10th floor of the UN Church Center in New York City on May 1st to join a conversation with Chantal Line Carpentier, Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and other UN representatives.
The topic: To hear from the “missing voices” of over 200,000 entrepreneurs from organizations including the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Social Venture Network, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), B Lab, CSRwire, Green America and ‘buy local’ green business networks.
The meeting was hosted by The Temple of Understanding, and organized by Martha Shaw, to explore ways that founders of socially- and environmentally-responsible ‘triple bottom line” businesses might bring their voices to Rio+20, and beyond.
"We Must Raise Our Voice Now"
ASBC's David Levine started the conversation by stressing that the gathered entrepreneurs are conscious of their global counterparts who are also running businesses that presuppose green practices and help serve social needs while making money.
"Whether they are social enterprises, micro enterprises, women's groups or development groups, they all carry the same sensibilities of a triple bottom line. They are finding a balance between profits, social and environmental goals," he said. "This voice is missing in our country today because a monolithic voice led by multinationals dominates all dialogues."
Levine ended by emphasizing that this is the opportunity for the entrepreneurs to market their leadership and present their pioneering work on a global stage as a way of creating shared value. "This voice is new and we must raise it," he ended.
"Define Sustainable and Green Business"
Green Map System's Wendy Brawer picked up where Levine left by adding that until we define what "sustainable business" means, creating this coherent voice will be hard.
Jumping into the dialogue, CSRwire CEO Joe Sibilia made it clear that "any business that integrates the human condition into its operations, whether you call it humanity or spirituality, is sustainable. These entrepreneurs are using business to create a values-driven and sustainable world," he said. "Financial gains cannot be the only objective. It's that simple."
Eco-preneurs at Rio+20
Temple of Understanding's Grove Harris interjected by adding that it is "practices like the ones Joe is highlighting that need to be voiced at Rio+20. It is important to bring these issues to the table by showing business practices that manifest in social value." She also added that traditionally, non-governmental organizations have not proven sophisticated enough to support our future and voices. "We need business to be there."
More examples of mission-driven business enterprises solving many social and environmental problems, including the eradication of poverty, were offered, as was a comparison to the restraints of multinational corporations who are bound by law to act in the best interest of stockholder profits.
Though Sibilia, Harris, Brawer and B Lab's Peter Strugatz offered several examples of supply chain relationships among green businesses and corporations going green, they also pointed out that many other models exist for ways the world can do business outside the restrictions of a corporation.
United Nations: Collaborate & Lead The Conversation
After hearing everyone out, Chantal Line Carpentier, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator, took the floor to urge the attendees to work with the UN in representing their issues at Rio+20.
She also emphasized clarifying ambiguous language about sustainability and suggested that the sector come to an agreement on what "private public partnerships mean" and "how you can help influence policy and regulatory frameworks."
"Consider this as a strong call for leadership. There is a lot of talk about business doing more but how? Show us, offer best practices, define CSR, and align practices with the United Nations Global Compact guidelines," she said.
Carpentier also recommended that the entrepreneurs make an effort to demystify the language around lifecycles, supply chain analysis and sustainability.
Finally, Tess Mateo, an advisor to the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), pointed out that the Women, and Indigenous People Major Groups would be good allies and recommended that we remain cognizant of working together with the other enterprises in promoting our voice on the global stage.