The report Sustainable Insight: Road to Rio, provides practical information for businesses planning to be on the ground in Rio, as well as a perspective on the likely outcomes of the Summit. It concludes that while binding agreements may be off the table, the Summit can help reinforce and catalyse a growing trend towards sustainable development. Most of all, Rio+20 may help build momentum and opportunities toward a green economy.
Yvo de Boer, KPMG’s Special Global Advisor on Climate Change & Sustainability, says there is no question that short-term thinking and the global economic turmoil have created strong headwinds for Rio+20, limiting – but not preventing – the ability to deliver concrete and binding outcomes.
“While this is disappointing, it would be a mistake to conclude that Rio+20 will not have an impact on business, or that business can’t influence Rio+20. Rio provides an opportunity for momentum towards a more sustainable economy. The role of business is of crucial value if long-term economic growth is to be safeguarded,” said Mr de Boer.
“My sense is that Rio+20 will mark the start of a broader global approach to sustainability, expanding the historical focus on climate change and carbon. In fact, I expect it will quietly initiate action on a range of sustainability issues which in time, will have significant implications for business.”
The Sustainable Insight report builds on a recent study from KPMG – Expect the Unexpected: Building Business Value in a Changing World, which identified 10 megaforces that will significantly affect corporate growth globally over the next two decades.
Mr de Boer says business leaders need to develop a solid understanding of their business profile in relation to the full system of sustainability megaforces, so they can understand where to act in minimising their risks and maximising opportunities.
Neil Morris, KPMG in South Africa Director, Climate Change & Sustainability services, says that when viewed in the context of megaforces such as climate change, energy and fuel volatility, not to mention water scarcity, “it is tempting to view moderate action at Rio+20 to be too little, too late.”
For Africa, where the impact of these megaforces will be particularly severe and protracted, Mr Morris maintains that the Summit must be evaluated on whether it provides long-term direction for sustainable development. Africa’s growth story is a long-term one, and perspectives on evaluating the outcomes of Rio+20 must be similarly holistic.
A successful outcome for business would be action-oriented policies that unlock global capital flows toward green economic growth, particularly in developing countries such as those in Africa. This depends on how governments follow through on the implementation of their commitments and how convinced investors are of their intentions. “Regardless of how quickly the change happens, it is the duty of business to be ready to capitalise on the opportunities of a changing marketplace. Indeed, our market leaders are already beginning to make the most out of sustainable business practice, and Rio+20 is a reminder to us all that times are changing,” says Mr Morris.
Editor’s note: KPMG’s global leaders in Climate Change & Sustainability (CC&S) will be available to speak on the record throughout this week surrounding the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) on how the complexities of sustainability and climate change are affecting business and policy on an international scale, as well as give an experienced perspective on the status of the negotiations themselves.