Web Date: June 19, 2012
Pledging Sustainable Corporations
Global companies, including chemical manufacturers and users, consumer product producers, and pharmaceutical firms, are pledging to take concrete actions to shift the world to a more sustainable path. More than 200 businesses from many sectors made commitments in Rio de Janeiro in recent days as a prelude to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which begins on June 20.
For example, GlaxoSmithKline pledged to reduce use of water in its operations by 20% by 2015. The company will also calculate the “footprint” of water use in its value chain and will reduce it by 20% by 2020.
Henkel AG set a goal of increasing its efficiency by 30% by the end of 2015. DuPont, meanwhile, said it will invest $10 billion in R&D to increase crop production, boost nutrition, and cut back on food waste. Unilever plans to cut in half the water associated with consumer use of and the waste from disposal of its products by 2020. And footwear maker Nike set a goal of eliminating the discharge of hazardous chemicals along its supply chain by 2020.
The companies announced their plans during a June 15–18 Corporate Sustainability Forum sponsored by the UN Global Compact, a voluntary corporate sustainability initiative. Some 7,000 corporations in 135 countries are signatories to the compact, which seeks to align business operations and strategies with sustainability principles that support human rights, workers, the environment, and anticorruption efforts.
The new corporate sustainability pledges will be formally presented to heads of state and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later this week at the conference, which is nicknamed Rio+20 to commemorate the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992. In addition, the forum is forwarding a recommendation that the international business community be given a role in identifying and promoting new global sustainability goals.
Ole Hansen, director of the UN Global Compact, said the companies’ sustainability commitments will have an immediate impact on the world and will serve as test cases.
“The only way to know if an innovative approach will work is to try it,” Hansen said. “The difficulties will teach us lessons, and the successes will snowball.”
- Chemical & Engineering News
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