Why Rio+20 Matters

With the Rio Earth Summit well and truly underway, news is beginning to pour out of the conference. The current summit is a landmark in many ways – it comes two decades after the very first Earth Summit also held in Rio. In the past two decades, environmental issues have not only been defined, brought to the table, and entered the conscience of many people but firm action has also happened in many instances.

This year the summit comes hard at the heels of a world that is floundering in an economic crisis – the goal of ‘the common future’ seems tarnished to many. It would be completely ignored if it weren’t for the fact that the environmental future is the economic future.

I caught up with Susan McPherson the Global Marketing Director of the Fenton Group. She is currently in Rio and has her finger on the pulse of the conference. She says:

“I’m not particularly hopeful on the final results of the summit, but the jury is out. There is certainly a feeling of hope throughout throughout all the summit halls.¬†The atmosphere is extremely chaotic and unorganized. Distances are far between events. Session room assignments change by the minute and Internet connectivity is painfully slow. What is amazing is the huge numbers of cultures, languages and peoples represented here hoping for a better world for our children.”

While a lot of people echo Susan’s sentiments, we also keep hoping for a better outcome. World leaders continue to meet to renegotiate terms, climate deals, wildlife and ocean protection. Companies continue to push themselves to excel in areas of waste and energy management and water stewardship. Common citizens are rallying together in protest, putting pressure on world leaders to do something, to bring a change. Which brings us all to the astounding question of, ‘Why bother?’

Partly because that human beings love a challenge – from the dawn of age we are the only species that has constantly innovated, improved, made mistakes, and strived to correct them. The environmental quagmire we are currently in is a by-product of the innovation and mistake-making. Now we are in the active trouble-shooting mode and it will take some time to right the balance.

Another reason why we all convene to decide to make things better is because as human beings we are fatalistic and do not lose hope. Rio is chance to say, “Yes, we screwed up. We are human. But we are still trying to fix things. We will continue to try, come what may.” This to me, is the key take-away from any environmental conference – that millions around the world are still willing to come together simply to¬†try.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net