The Rio Earth Summit 2012 has past and and gone, resulting in a wishy-washy document called 'The Future We Want' full of bland fine-sounding language and very few action plans. This was a meeting of heads of States who, at the 1992 Rio Summit, created two intergovernmental institutions to tackle the urgent issues of climate change and loss of biological diversity. Both institutions have failed to get signatory governments to follow through on their commitments.
In a thought-provoking piece in Nature, entitled 'The Corporate Climate Overhaul' Pavan Sukhdev argues that this is not working because the private sector is not at the table.This is essential because, writes Sukhdev, 'The private sector produces almost everything we consume, generating more than 60% of global gross-domestic product.' But, he argues, corporations must evolve if they are to play a major role in achieving a sustainable world.
'Today's corporation is, on average, an economic agent lacking in social purpose and focused on financial return to shareholders...It produces today's 'brown' economy, delivering private gains at the expense of public losses by increasing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.'
'Corporations not consumers are in the driving seat and they are driving us in the wrong direction.Corporate advertising converts our insecurities into a chain of wants, needs and excessive demands, which have made our ecological footprint exceed the planet's ability to produce resources and absorb emissions by more than 50%.
'We are now consuming nature's capital, not its interest. And yet we have enshrined this corporate model in business law and practice, and, indeed, celebrated it as a crowning success of our times. The rules of the game need to be changed.'
'The new type of corporation, which I call Corporation 2020, can still be profitable while contributing to a 'green economy': one that increases human well-being and social equity, and decreases environmental risks and ecological scarcities.'
There is now an organisation called Corporation 20/20 dedicated to exploring the possibilities of this system redesign thinking. One of their mission papers concludes: ' Amidst unprecedented growth in the scale, reach and footprint of corporations, sufficient evidence exists to support the possibility of a latent but powerful movement to reshape the purpose of corporations in a form that aligns with 21st century imperatives.'