Friday, June 15, 2012

Dr Sustainability is at Rio+20!

Dr Sustainability is enjoying the sunshine in Rio, where the Big Event of the sustainability calendar is taking place - the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. She just gave me a call, offering to answer readers' questions about what's going on at this important event. Here are the questions that Dr. Sustainability received and, of course, her frank and unflappable answers:

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Do I need a visa to attend the Rio+ conference?
Dear Traveler: Not unless you plan on spending a lot of money. (think about it)

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Do you expect Rio+20 to result in concrete outcomes ?
Dear Construction Worker: The concrete outcomes have already been achieved. Four new hotels were built to house the Heads of State, Heads of Companies and Head Waiters at the Rio+20 event. That's a heckuvalotta concrete.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Will the world become more sustainable after Rio+20?
Dear Naive: Yes. Of course. Why else would they go to all this trouble?

Dear Dr Sustainability: I hear that the sustainability reporting agenda is a key negotiating point at Rio+20. Will there be a commitment by governments to mandatory reporting by all companies everywhere, as Teresa Fogelberg hopes to see?
Dear Reporter: Yes, there will. It will probably be worded something like this: "We, the governments of the enlightened world, believe that sustainability reporting has value and we would like to require incentivize recommend promote encourage suggest beg plead with companies around the globe to include think about including sustainability disclosures in their annual corporate reporting to all stakeholders."

Dear Dr Sustainability: There are some that say it would be much easier if we gave up on cooperation and watched the planet burn. I read that in a post on Treehugger. What's your view on that? Have you heard anyone suggesting we should give up on Rio+20?
Dear Firecracker: Well, everyone that I have met here believes this is a very important conference and that the momentum is building to have a coherent discussion on the future of our planet. Of course, we have been having coherent discussions for quite some time now. Momentum is a great thing, but sooner or later, it has to result in something. Otherwise, instead of sustainability, we just get momentum.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I understand the theme of Rio+20 is called "The Future we Want". Is it all about the future? What about the present?
Dear Nitpicker: Yes, Rio+20 is focused on commitments to future action. The future starts in the present. The problem is, the future was yesterday and there are some who are getting impatient. By the time it's tomorrow, the future will already be the past and then it will be too late for collaboration. In the meantime, which I think is the present, it is probably fair to say that the future is at least as important as the past and Rio+20 needs to deliver a decisive commitment so that the past of our future will be more sustainable than the future of our past, which is now. It makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it. Now. In the present. Before the future.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: How many people are there at Rio+20? Are they all tweeting?
Dear Tweet: There are about 50,000 people here. About 25 are tweeting at #Rio20. A few more are live-blogging. About 49,800 are networking. The rest are walking out of the negotiations.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I have heard that the developing nations want the developed nations to pay them to be sustainable. Do you think that will work?
Dear Money-Grabber: This is technically not correct. The Developing Economies want the Developed Economies to invest money to help them do their part in creating the Future the Developed Economies Want. The Developed Economies want a future in which the Developing Economies will not interfere. In other words, they want the Developing Economies to stay Developing. But it's more complex than that. The Developing Economies want to become Developed. They want to add to the mess that the Developed Economies got us all into. They want the Developed Economies to invest in them not making a bigger mess. The Developed Economies say: He who createth the bigger mess must footeth the bigger bill. In classical literature, this is called a lose-lose situation. In business, it's called unsustainable development.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I read that a recent poll by Globescan showed that nearly eight in ten (78%) sustainability experts believe the current economic system must be substantially overhauled and a similar percentage (77%) say that major catastrophes will need to occur before governments will act on sustainability. Are you one of the 78% of sustainability experts?
Dear Wiseguy: I did not participate in the poll. It must have gone into my spam. However, I concur with the fact that the current economic system must be overhauled. Where I am undecided is exactly what it must be hauled over. Over the heads of Prime Ministers and Presidents, I suppose. I agree about major catastrophes. A good catastrophe is always a catalyst for action. Hurray for catastrophes. What would we do without them? Apart from save on Xanax expenses. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: After Rio+20, will I be able to sleep any easier at night ?
Dear Insomniac: Oh sure. If you destroy your neighbors' kids BoomBox. But more importantly, your great-great grandchildren will be able to sleep a  lot too. In fact, the planet will be so sustainable, they'll be bored out of their minds.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via   on Twitter or via my business website  (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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