The 2012/06/21 at 07:00
Born in Canada, Jean-Guy Carrier became Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce on 24 January 2011. He is also Director of Programmes for ICC’s Research Foundation. He has initiated and led research-based publishing and public information programmes for various international and national organizations, most recently for the World Trade Organization (WTO).
How is ICC helping businesses to integrate the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development into their practices?
Jean-Guy Carrier: “Voluntary codes such as the ICC Business Charter for Sustainable Development, have provided thousands of companies, large and small around the world with the basis for sound environmental management to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development. Business has already demonstrated considerable success in integrating sustainability into business practices by applying them. ICC’s Green Economy Roadmap, 10 Conditions for a Transition toward a Green Economy, Framework for Responsible Environmental Marketing Communications, Guide to Responsible Sourcing, Model Contract for Technology Transfer and Incoterms® Rules – internationally recognized standards used worldwide in international and domestic contracts for the sale of goods – are just some of ICC’s other tools that can help companies implement a sustainable-development strategy. Since the action plan, known as Agenda 21, was agreed upon at the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, ICC has also actively participated in all sessions of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, remaining a committed major partner and the voice of global business in major intergovernmental processes on issues such as the green economy, climate change, sustainable consumption, production or biodiversity. ICC strongly encourages corporate responsibility initiatives in the belief that responsible, long-term oriented entrepreneurship is not only the driving force for sustainable economic development, but is crucial for providing the managerial, technical and financial resources needed to respond to the social and environmental challenges we face in today’s globalized world.”
Why should business have a voice in shaping sustainability policy?
J.-G.C.: “Business has demonstrated considerable success in integrating sustainability into business practices and engaging with stakeholders, using voluntary codes such as the ICC Business Charter for Sustainable Development. But more needs to be done if we are to meet economic, developmental and environmental challenges and no one group of stakeholders can do this alone. We believe that sustainable development is a systemic challenge and a shared responsibility that will require collaborative action between all actors in society – business, governments, civil society and consumers.”
How is business currently contributing?
J.-G.C.: “National sustainable-development efforts that build on compliance with national laws – in associated business planning and management systems and in implementation wherever a company operates – are the starting point of strengthening business contributions. These can include, and be reinforced by, a number of additional voluntary approaches, including: partnerships with governments, inter-governmental organizations, and NGOs; voluntary codes like ICC Business Charter for Sustainable Development or the Global Compact; voluntary sectorial approaches such as the chemicals sector’s ‘Responsible Care’; “soft law” approaches, like the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; reporting initiatives, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI); standards and guidance, such as ISO 14000 and ISO 26000. In order to become a functional economic system, the green economy needs to become ingrained in international and global markets and operationalized in the market and business balance sheets. Economy-wide approaches should be adopted that include receptive markets for delivering business value and commercially viable products and services along the value chain. ICC’s new Green Economy Roadmap is a global business guide to achieving a green economy and contains case studies, best practices, and a call for future collaboration.”
What do you consider to be critical accelerators for green growth?
J.-G.C.: “Trade and investment are two propellants that to date have raised the living standards of millions of people around the world. Harnessed appropriately, and provided governments avoid protectionism and work cooperatively to establish the right frameworks, they can help address the sustainability challenge and serve as global accelerators of green growth. Requirements to accelerate progress toward a green economy are outlined in ICC’s 10 Conditions for a Transition toward a Green Economy (see boxed text).”
To date, where has the most significant progress been made when implementing agreements?
J.-G.C.: “In 1992 the role and contribution of the private sector towards sustainable development was neither well understood nor accepted. Today, the role of the private sector as a constructive partner, and engine of growth and sustainable development is much more widely recognized, as are the benefits that business is bringing: creating jobs, building skills and developing new technologies. Over the last 20 years, we have seen considerable success and reaffirm our belief in the vital role that business plays in achieving the objectives of sustainable development, in collaboration with governments and civil society. Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, agreed upon at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 – affirming UN commitment to 'full implementation' of Agenda 21 –have defined a broad terrain of necessary areas for action. Recognizing that there are growing financial constraints and limited resources, the challenge at Rio +20 will be for governments and stakeholders to set priorities and deploy resources efficiently and cost-effectively. As critical as good policies are, without enabling markets and frameworks, their effectiveness will be limited. Business encourages governments to consider the importance of the contexts of open trade and markets, rule of law and other necessary elements for successful business endeavours. Today, there is ample evidence that business, with its resources and capabilities, has a vital role to play in helping achieve the goals related to sustained economic growth in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Business provides conceptual solutions to sustainable development that focus on concrete actions and deliverable results.”
What can be done to ensure quantifiable sustainable development progress will be made in Rio?
J.-G.C.: “While companies doing business in globalized markets and across supply and value chains welcome, and often prefer, globalized approaches and integrated frameworks, they also understand the importance of tailored approaches and institutions reflecting national circumstances and priorities. Such approaches will create a mosaic of solutions and approaches across global, national and local levels but pose challenges for coordination, jurisdiction, and efficiency. Finding the right balance is critical. For business, this important area can be divided into two parts: improving the institutional framework for sustainable development from the perspective of business and enhancing the role of business therein. We regard institutional frameworks as inextricably linked with other key matters in Rio+20, notably the green economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”
What is a Green Economy?
J.-G.C.: “‘Green’ or ‘green economy’ is a term principally utilised by policymakers. At present there is no single agreed definition, set of indicators or financial measurements for what exactly the ‘green economy’ is. Global business would therefore rather focus on “greener economies”, acknowledging the many challenges and opportunities present across sectors and value chains. For business, a ‘green economy’ is an economy in which economic growth and environmental responsibility work together in a mutually reinforcing fashion while supporting progress on social development. Just as countries are at different stages of development with a diversity of national circumstances and societal priorities, we can expect there will be numerous “green economies” in both the public and private sectors. For business, the critical question will be how this diversity interacts in global markets and regulatory frameworks. A major enabler for business to contribute to sustainability is the establishment, and support of, clear and flexible regulatory and voluntary policy frameworks by governments. In addition, we welcome partnerships with governments and other stakeholders to invest in sustainability solutions that will lead to the next generation of products and services in the evolution of a green economy.”
What are the future challenges for corporations when balancing sustainable business practices with profits? Will shareholders be willing to sacrifice short-term dividends for long-term environmental gains?
J.-G.C.: “Companies view sustainability issues from both a risk-management perspective and the increasingly evident and appealing benefits and opportunities – particularly associated with green growth and poverty alleviation. In short, the business case for sustainability has strengthened as a response to the deep interdependencies in today‘s globalized world. Part of the challenge and opportunity for business and industry is to understand the concrete possibilities of a “green economy” with its opportunities and risks for its many sectors, value chains, and different national contexts. Ultimately, efforts by all actors should reconcile the need for short- and medium-term profit with long-term systemic change. Economic growth is, and will continue to be, essential to provide the resources and social equity necessary to build capacity and finance sustainable-development actions.”
Is there a risk that that the green economy could lead to green protectionism?
J.-G.C.: “We are in a time of multiple and interlocking crises: climate change, food, water, energy and of course the economic crisis. It is in this context that we will meet in Rio. Business is suffering from a crisis of confidence created by volatile economic conditions and one negative consequence of this has been to delay business investment at a time when jobs are badly needed. Crises relating to the environment also present similar challenges. Both stem from complex issues leading to a lack of confidence and leadership, which in turn hinders private investment. The economic crisis has certainly led governments to pursue austerity measures and made it difficult for hard-pressed national treasuries to invest in a green economy. Moreover, it has also provided fertile ground for the rise of economic nationalism and protectionism – which hinders solutions in an interdependent world. There is an urgent need to rebuild business confidence that the crisis and enabling conditions for green growth will be addressed effectively. The first step is to stabilize the world economy to reduce volatility in order to encourage business investment.”
To what extent is there support for developing countries in relation to technology cooperation, capacity development and financing?
J.-G.C.: “With a predicted rise in global population from 6.5 to 8 billion, a 50% increase in energy demand and a doubling of economic output over the next 25 years, it is critically important to marshal the necessary technological resources to address sustainability challenges and increase the pace of technological innovation, cooperation and dissemination. To move forward, it is crucial to green all sectors in all countries and advance resource efficiency and life cycle approaches. We consider improvements of existing processes (manufacturing technologies, jobs, logistics, research, etc.) to be as important as launching new products and technologies. Both approaches should be pursued simultaneously for a step change. It should be noted that business operates across global supply and value chains and greening all stages along the life cycle of its products and services is becoming a guiding principle for many leading companies and sectors. The actions needed to transition towards a green economy vary depending on sector, value chain or national circumstances. Near-term priorities, for example, may differ significantly, especially for least developed countries. Enhanced technology development and deployment will however be particularly important for developing countries. In order to accelerate the development and deployment of key technologies, new financing approaches will be required. Carbon financing will bridge some of the gap, but multilateral development financing and other policy incentives will help accelerate deployment.”
Can corruption and social unrest hinder meaningful social, economic and environmental sustainability progress?
J.-G.C.: “Corruption and unrest are prime obstacles to economic and social development and environmental sustainability around the world. Achieving improved conditions for transparency and integrity in all countries is of paramount importance for private- and public-sector undertakings in support of sustainable development. The right combination of rights, responsibilities, laws, incentives and agreements can encourage environmental protection and rational use of natural resources. This will help to ensure the sustainability of economic activities that rely on these resources. National and international organizations can be instrumental in the management of these laws and norms. The private and public sectors can work together to fight corruption and in turn help save scarce resources in this way. Increasingly companies are demonstrating leadership by implementing effective anti-corruption programmes within their companies. ICC's 2011 Rules on Combating Corruption provide all the elements for an effective anti-corruption compliance programme. Common features include policies on bribes, kickbacks, extortion, third parties, facilitation payments and money laundering. Resisting Extortion and Solicitation in International Transactions (RESIST) is also a practical toolkit – produced by ICC, Transparency International, the UN Global Compact and the World Economic Forum Partnering Against Corruption Initiative – to help companies train employees to respond appropriately to a variety of solicitations. Collective action and public-private partnerships are growing in importance as a joint approach to fighting corruption, including through government recognition or endorsement of private-sector anti-corruption programmes.”
2. Education and skills
4. Resource efficiency and decoupling
5. Life-cycle approach
6. Open and competitive markets
7. Metrics, accounting, and reporting
8. Finance and investment
Mutually reinforcing and crosscutting elements
9. Integrated environmental, social and economic policy and decision-making
10. Governance and partnerships