Clear goals and legal sanctions are decisive factors for the success of Rio+20 according to companies operating in Brazil
In order to bring discussions into concrete actions at Rio+20, the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development, business leaders in Brazil - host country of the event, indicate the need to set clear goals to be met, and legal sanctions to countries and companies that do not meet the established goals.
This is one of the conclusions presented in the study "Sustainable Development – From business leaders’ visions to the practices of organizations," conducted by Deloitte, one of the largest audit and consulting firms in the world, between April 9th and May 15th. The sample was composed of business executives from 108 local and foreign organizations operating in Brazil, of all sizes and sectors, which together bill R$ 700 billion (17% of Brazil’s GDP).
Nearly half of business respondents (45%) believe that the Rio+20 will further accelerate ongoing discussions. Meanwhile, the same percentage of respondents believes the conference will fail to bring significant changes. The remaining 10% of respondents have extremely diverse views on the subject, ranging from speculation about the event to be responsible for major progress to a possible setback in global negotiations.
Another pathway fairly pointed out by respondents is the importance of increasing engagement with sustainability issues, either by the people, such as citizens and consumers (22% of respondents), or the government itself (13%), and businesses (9%). Further solutions have also been indicated such as the creation of supranational bodies to address sustainability (10%) and the establishment of protocols between nations (8%).
According to Anselmo Bonservizzi, a partner at Deloitte, in charge of the Sustainability and Environmental Consulting area, the main business leaders’ view revealed by the study represent a practical concern. "Brazilian organizations today understand the importance of discussing the best solutions for sustainable development, especially in the context where businesses are keen on the idea of building a green economy, a central theme of the Rio+20. However, the development of the market and society in this direction will depend on very clear and objective conclusions, as well as on established changing period, incentives, monitoring activities, and metrics not only to follow this development but to ensure that signed agreements do become a reality."
From all the issues to be discussed at Rio+20, the business leaders believe that the adoption of new technologies (20% of notes), the implementation of certifications and audits (19%), the rational use of natural resources with the use of raw materials and inputs (16%) and the need for adherence to environmental regulations (14%) are the ones that will mostly impact the management of their organizations after the conference.
The survey revealed that 93% of respondents have some degree of knowledge about the Rio+20 Conference. The Kyoto Protocol, however, is the sustainable development agreement best known by the Brazilian business leaders. Almost all of respondents (98%) have demonstrated some level of knowledge about the treaty which established, in 1997, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), providing for greenhouse gases reduction in industrialized countries, and encouraged environmentally sustainable projects around the world.
Another question from the same survey reinforces the importance of the Kyoto Protocol: According to 78% of the interviewees, this is the agreement that, in history, has accomplished most results of either high or medium relevance.
To Lucilene Batista, Senior Environmental and Sustainability Consulting Manager at Deloitte, "This particular viewpoint presented by the Brazilian business leaders can be explained by the impacts that the Kyoto Protocol has had on the actual business strategy of many companies, and on the market as a whole. It was instrumental in motivating the development of wind energy, for example." She also recalls that Brazil had a pioneering role in the development of both private and public sustainable projects, as required by the Protocol.
The commitment to sustainable development is formally presented in the strategic planning of 77% of the companies covered by the survey. The adoption of policies and guidelines for sustainability occurs in 47% of the organizations (while other 26% indicate that they still intend to take it in). 43% of companies utilise sustainability reports, with another 25% of them stating the intention to do so. Environmental impact management takes place in 42% of the sample.
Nearly half (51%) of interviewees responded they have social-environmental goals set. The exercise of tying employees’ remuneration to sustainability-associated goals is a reality of 27% of the surveyed corporations surveyed.
The pro-sustainability programs and initiatives that stand out and are, nowadays, mostly adopted by the companies, according to the research: selective garbage collection (73% of companies already adopted it and 20% plan to), social responsibility (65% already execute it in the community and 60% amongst staff), rational use of natural resources (54% already doing it and another 26% indicating intention to do so), and environmental education activities (51% already adopted it and 30% plan to do so.)
Brazilian business leaders are gradually complying to the adoption of sustainable measures, as verified when comparing the results of this survey with another one also conducted by Deloitte, in 2009. At that time, 78% of a sample numerically similar to the current one, admitted they adopted sustainable measures and 18% said they intended to do so. In the 2012 survey, 84% state to adopt these practices and 12% (mainly small and medium enterprises) express intention to do so.
Another relevant comparison between the two studies is the amount of investments in initiatives supporting sustainability. In 2009, 29% of companies drove between 1% and 3% of their revenues to such practices. In 2012, this figure has dropped to 7% of companies. In the same way, back in 2009, 15% of the businesses were rated lower investment range (with only 0.1% of revenue being aimed at sustainable initiatives), against 21% in the current sample.
This clear decrease in investment must be analysed in context, according Anselmo Bonservizzi, from Deloitte. "At the end of the last decade, especially large companies were living their most intense phase of adherence to new environmental practices, while today the focus is on maintaining such initiative and increasing investments in other areas related to sustainability, such as the social area", he explains.
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