Remarks by Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the 9th Global Reporting Initiative Advisory Group Meeting Thu, Sep 27, 2012

New Delhi, 27 September 2012 - Good morning your Excellency, government representatives, and colleagues from the Global Reporting Initiative.

It is an honour and pleasure to be with you. Allow me to thank our host, the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs for the warmth and hospitality which we have enjoyed. 

As we have heard over the past few days and further to our animated discussions last night, the renewed energy and traction evolving around corporate sustainability reporting, including among both the public and the private sector is intensifying.

UNEP sees enhanced and more widespread corporate sustainability reporting as a building block towards an inclusive Green Economy as one important tool for realizing sustainable development.

And we welcome our involvement in the work of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to develop new and more inclusive guidelines-G4-which dovetails with the work of the ‘friends of paragraph 47’ in respect to that enhancement and wider penetration of corporate sustainability reporting not least among small to medium-sized enterprises.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rio+20 ended with a range of outcomes which, if embraced over the coming months and years, offer the opportunity to build the pathways towards a more sustainable 21st century.

Many of these will benefit from our work to raise the level of ambition and buy-in in respect to corporate sustainability reporting.

Rio+ 20 Summit Outcomes-the Link to More Sustainable Companies and Societies

In Rio in June, Heads of State and more than 190 nations gave the green light to a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Nations agreed that such a transition could be ‘an important tool’ when supported by policies that encourage decent employment, social welfare and inclusion and the maintenance of the Earth’s ecosystems from forests to freshwaters.

These policies include those that enable better understanding and transparency on an organization’s impacts on the environment and society. 

UNEP is already moving forward with others on the inclusive Green Economy not least through a new Partnership for the Green Economy (PAGE) aimed at enhancing to support to developing countries for advisory services alongside other measures-increased capacity building and policy analysis.

The Summit also gave the go-ahead towards a set of Sustainable Development Goals  that can bring all nations -rich and poor- into cooperative target setting across a range of challenges from water and land-up to food waste around the globe.

The Sustainable Development Goals are expected to complement the Millennium Development Goals after 2015, reflecting the reality that a transition to an inclusive green economy and the realization of a sustainable century also needs to include the footprints of developed nations as well as support to developing ones.

The decision to work towards a new global indicator of wealth that goes beyond the narrowness of Gross Domestic Product offers encouragement to governments to push forward on requiring companies to report their environmental, social and governance footprints and directly supports the work of the Group of Friends.

  • Beyond GDP
  • Specifically, Rio+20 addressed the growing concern that Gross Domestic Product may have out lived its usefulness in a world where natural resource scarcity, pollution and social exclusion are also becoming drivers of whether a nation’s wealth is truly going up or running down.

    The Summit’s outcome document requests the UN Statistical Commission to work with other UN bodies including UNEP and other organizations to identify new approaches for measuring progress.

    At Rio+20, UNEP and the UN University's International Human Development Programme presented findings from an Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) looking at several countries including Brazil. Other pathways towards developing a new indicator include:

    The EU’s effort to go "Beyond GDP" - which was launched in November 2007 with an aim to come up with a broader set of macro-level indexes other than GDP and provide information on how economic growth affects its own foundation (stock of all assets);

    In addition, several countries including Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India and the United Kingdom, representatives of some of these governments are present today, have or are now carrying out national assessments of the value of their ‘natural assets’ drawing on those done globally by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity hosted by UNEP.

  • Sustainable Consumption and Production
  • Another significant step forward was the adoption of a 10-year framework on sustainable consumption and production which covers several sectors ranging from tourism to government procurement.

    During Rio+20 over 30 governments and institutions including Brazil, Denmark, Switzerland and UNEP announced a new global International Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative (SPPI) aimed at scaling-up the level of public spending flowing into goods and services that maximize environmental and social benefits.

    Studies indicate that sustainable public procurement, which represents between 15 and 25 per cent of GDP, offers a tremendous opportunity towards green innovation and sustainability.

    Examples from around the world show that sustainable public procurement has the potential to transform markets, boost the competitiveness of eco industries, save money, conserve natural resources and foster job creation.

  • Sustainability reporting
  • And in the area of Sustainability Reporting, Rio catalyzed a fresh urgency and opportunity for the way forward as we know.  An estimated 25 per cent of the 20,000 companies tracked by Bloomberg report on their environmental, social and governance footprints-but 75 per cent are not.

    On 20 June, I had the honour to be present when several countries including Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa announced that they would move forward on the issue with support from UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative and join as the Group of Friends.  I will return to this specific result of the Rio+20 Conference again in my intervention.

    What is role of UN, of governments, of business?

    One of the significant differences between Rio in 1992 and Rio 2012 was the scaled-up engagement of the business sector during the Conference and at a business focused event, the Corporate Sustainability Forum, organized by the UN Global Compact.

    In addition to their support to ambitious topics during the negotiation of the Outcome document, a raft of new business pledges and policy recommendations were announced towards the end of this four-day business forum.

    Of the more than 200 private sector commitments, those standing out include Microsoft saying it will achieve carbon neutrality through offsetting actions. Unilever is launching a drive to halve the greenhouse gas impact of their products, and Nike has set a target of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals along its entire supply chain, both by 2020.

    The financial community also played an important role: noteworthy was the launching of the Natural Capital Declaration and the Principles of Sustainable Insurance, where the UNEP Finance Initiative played a key role.

    In addition, we are all aware of the attention that the financial community helped gather around the negotiation of the text on corporate sustainability reporting, through the role of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition. UNEP FI will continue to bridge dialogue between governments and the financial community in the UN process of developing a Sustainable Development Financing Strategy (paragraph 255-257).    

    We see an evolving sense of how the UN governments and business are working together on the sustainability agenda.  The role of the private sector is increasingly one of an active partner in change.

    Governments with the mandates from Rio 1992 and now Rio+20 have a clear direction to pursue in respect to investment and generating the enabling conditions needed.  The UN has, and continues, to facilitate and galvanise multi-stakeholder efforts and processes- some of which I have highlighted today - towards the realisation of sustainable development.

    The Group of Friends of Paragraph 47: an excellent example of commitment for progress.

    The discussion on how best to more effectively engage the private sector brought us, at the conclusion of very intense negotiations, to the current text of Article 47. And even though it has been suggested that the text reads less ambitious than it could have been, it does provide a solid basis upon which to develop and support further the dissemination of corporate sustainability reporting.

    Allow me to recall that to advance the recommendations put forward under paragraph 47, Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa announced the creation of the ‘Group of Friends of Paragraph 47’ during a joint Ministerial event, at the close of Rio+20, and invited other interested governments to join them in an open process to develop a Roadmap by the end of 2012.

    These countries requested UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative to provide technical advice and support to these activities.  The countries also welcomed and invited the involvement of other countries. Over the last months much has been done to progress on this challenging mandate.

    The countries in the ‘Group of Friends of Paragraph 47’ have a common vision that corporate sector transparency and accountability are key elements to enhancing the private sector’s contribution to sustainable development.

    Based on several national experiences, these countries envision that a global exchange on models of best practices on corporate sustainability reporting would be an important and effective step towards levelling the playing field and providing a more harmonized and integrated reporting environment.

    At the same time, particular attention needs to be paid to the context of developing countries.  The Rio+20 negotiations underscored the importance of enhancing awareness about the potential of sustainability reporting to contribute to sustainable development and the need to compliment awareness with capacity building support.

    To that end UNEP initiated and is finalising a joint project in cooperation with the Global Reporting Initiative which will raise awareness and build capacity in developing countries. The project looks to also partner with UN DESA and, the UN Global Compact. The project would build upon the efforts of the Group of Friends and beyond.

    The Group of Friends met this morning and has made progress on the Group’s vision and on the way forward to prepare the deliverables which will be presented next year.  UNEP, in cooperation with the Global Reporting Initiative, looks forward to continuing to support to the work of the Group of Friends - to engage in the development of deliverables, to welcome additional stakeholders - as guided by Group Country leadership.

    Allow me to take this occasion to highlight and applaud the efforts of the countries in the Group of Friends.  This initiative is one of the cutting edge efforts in the area of sustainability reporting.

    For UNEP, it is an honour to work with our long term partner, the Global Reporting Initiative, and to support the efforts of this Group of committed countries because of its catalytic potential to move forward and accelerate our common aspirations for a sustainable century.

    And in doing so improve the prospects for seven billion people, rising to over nine billion people by 2050.

    Thank you.

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