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De Boer to Businesses: Don’t Be Too Generic or Too Specific


Business and industry do a far better job communicating to government policy-makers on a national level than globally. That was the feedback U.N. climate secretary Yvo de Boer gave to a capacity crowd of more than 400 executives attending Copenhagen Business Day, Dec.11.

The annual business day event is organized by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and International Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the U.N. Climate Change Conference, which this year is known as the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15).

“Discussion is either too precise and therefore not applicable to the international setting, or it’s too generic,” said de Boer.

With a robust agenda focused on interactive discussion about unleashing a low-carbon economy rather than a day of speeches, WBCSD documented the meeting with artists outlining consensus points with key phrases and illustrations on large white-board murals (see image above).

“We need to speak in two syllables rather than 15 pages,” agreed one executive, who told de Boer the business world can help the U.N. curb rising temperatures. “We can give you 2 (degrees) Celsius — just not tomorrow.”

One attendee told de Boer “you might be a little blind and deaf” if the climate secretary isn’t seeing what the business world has to offer in “product offerings” to reduce carbon emissions. Responded de Boer, “I may be deaf and blind, but maybe dumb too. I’m saying you’re not connecting internationally.”

Said WBCSD President Bjorn Stigson: “I don’t think we’re ineffective, but we’re not very coherent.”

By mid afternoon, “Three C’s” – Clarification, Communication, and Coherence – became the theme of the day’s discussion.

Global Execs’ Perspective from Copenhagen Business Day

More than 20 CEOs from global businesses spoke on a panel discussion at the end of Copenhagen Business Day. Below is a summary of select paraphrased comments:

Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company – “We are invited into the lives of consumers 1.6 billion times daily. We see increasing willingness to change behavior by consumers in both developed and developing countries. We have set a goal to be water neutral by 2020. We also have a goal of decoupling packaging from virgin fossil fuels. And by 2015, all refrigeration equipment will be HFC-free.”

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever – “The consumer will always buy products that have the best price, the right value. Increasingly they are looking for more. We can move consumers toward better behavior by helping them understand, and being transparent.”

Ditlev Engel: President and CEO, Vestas Wind Systems A/S – “We know what to do. The question is how do we implement? Create four or five regional regulatory bodies that you trust to manage carbon market funds. Everyone is saying to the Bella Center (COP 15 site), come up with a long-term price on carbon, and don’t leave without it.”

Ignacio Galán, Chairman and CEO, Iberdrola – “Combating climate change is a necessity, and decisions right now will have positive effects on employment and markets in countries around the world. We need a clear regulatory framework with equitable targets.”

Bruno Lafont, CEO, Lafarge – “The problem to resolve is raising carbon productivity. Companies that will win in 2020 have to be able to listen to new ideas and different people.”

Valerie Davis, CEO of EnviroMedia Social Marketing and President of Green Canary Sustainability Consulting, is reporting for Environmental Leader from the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, Denmark. More updates available at GreenDetectives.net.

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