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Rio+20 Preview: KPMG Roadmap for Business, GRI Reporting in Developing Countries

The UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit won’t likely result in any binding agreements for businesses, but it may help reinforce sustainable development, according to a report by KPMG International.

Some 50,000 participants from governments, businesses, NGOs and lobby groups are expected to attend the summit, June 16-22 in Rio de Janeiro, which will focus on two themes: building a “green economy” in the context of poverty eradication, and encouraging sustainable development.

The intended outcome of the conference is a voluntary action plan to be adopted by world leaders. As part of the action plan, the UN wants policy makers from developed and developing countries to adopt a series of universal sustainable development goals at Rio+20.

A draft of the action plan, called the “zero draft,” contains 128 clauses and commitments, many of which the KPMG report says are relevant to business. These include:

  • A call for listed and large private companies to issue sustainability reports.
  • Agreement to “gradually eliminate” subsidies that have “negative effects” on sustainable development, such as fossil fuel, agricultural and fisheries subsidies.
  • Prioritization of the sustainable intensification of food production and a call to set goals for improved water and waste management through public-private partnerships.
  • Goals to provide universal access to energy, double the rate of energy efficiency improvement and double the global share of renewable energy, all by 2030.

The KPMG report, “Sustainable Insight: Road to Rio,” says a successful outcome of Rio+20 for business would be to learn of the direction governments will take to implement sustainability policies, and capitalize on sustainable business practices.

While countries may promise specific actions to meet sustainability goals at Rio+20, the Natural Resources Defense Council has called on the UN to deploy state-of-the-art information technology to enable citizens worldwide to ensure these promises are kept.

Also leading up to Rio+20, the UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced they will use the summit to launch a €3.2 million program intended to boost sustainable business in developing countries.

Through this partnership, the Global Compact and GRI are working to provide companies with a comprehensive framework for corporate sustainability performance and disclosure, based on the Global Compact Principles and the GRI Guidelines. The groups say the joint program will help companies in developing countries better manage and report key economic and environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency.

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