Rio de Janeiro: Corporate giants pledge to go green

UN's biggest ever global-business event – the Rio+20 forum – sees 1,200 executives make commitments on more ethical, greener ways to work

Rio de Janeiro

More than 150 commitments to conduct more ethical and greener business will be announced by large corporations at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum over the next couple of days. Around 1,200 business executives have joined government and NGO representatives at the three-day conference, which started in Rio on Friday. The Forum, organised by the UN Global Compact, is the biggest event the UN has ever hosted for global business.

The UN Global Compact promotes ethical, fair and sustainable business practices, and some participating firms have already implemented changes. Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch soap giant, will soon grow all its palm oil in a sustainable way. Paul Polman, its chief executive, told The Independent on Sunday in New York: "Two billion consumers use our products every day. More and more consumers want green products, and only companies who fulfil this desire will stay in business in the long run."

His decision to stop filing quarterly reports for investors – which are often an obstacle to long-term sustainability goals – created uproar in the business community. "With a company of our size we can move the world. We can make a significant impact," Mr Polman said. "We have to consume differently. We cannot steal from our children."

Bank of America has pledged $50bn towards efficient renewable energy and low-carbon economies. The Swiss food and water giant Nestlé, which has faced international criticism and boycotts in past decades for its business in the developing world, now provides clean drinking water and education in Punjab villages; has created farming co-operatives in El Salvador that produce the Fair Trade certified Nescafé; and has helped Brazilian women start a more independent life by packing wagons with consumer goods they can sell.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, said: "More than a billion people lack access to basic needs such as food, electricity and safe drinking water. Business can help us to change the cause. Solutions exist that have profound impact. We need many more companies to awaken to this agenda."

Georg Kell, architect of the UN Global Compact, hopes Rio+20 will start a global movement. He has already managed to get more than 7,000 firms to commit to its principles. Norway's Telenor gives mobile phones to farmers in Bangladesh so they can check the price of corn and not be cheated by traders. Chemicals giant BASF provides vitamins to African countries. Global Compact participant Siemens announced last year that it would stop its billion-dollar nuclear-plants business in order to invest more in renewable energy. And during Rio+20, the Siemens Foundation will launch a global competition to identify and sponsor technical solutions that will contribute towards sustainable development.

The Corporate Sustainability Forum will be followed by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development on 20-22 June, which Ban Ki-Moon has described as "too big to fail". A parallel "People's Summit" on 15-23 June will present a critical approach to the official conference's principles, debates and solutions.

Elsewhere, Sir David Attenborough, Jonathon Porritt and former Chief Scientist Lord May warned Rio+20 that no progress would be made if the problem of population growth was ignored. Population Matters chair Roger Martin said: "Rio's plans for sustainable development will be little more than a wishlist if they ignore the urgent need to stabilise our numbers."


Additional reporting: Azar Zaidi

The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?