Oxfordshire-based businessman, Dr Graham Wilson, is leading a call for politicians to seize the opportunity presented by the current economic crisis simultaneously to address long-term environmental threats and global poverty.
This was the conclusion of delegates at the 4th World Congress on Corporate Responsibility who met this week in Vilamoura, Portugal (26-28 February 2009). Under the chairmanship of Ola Ullsten, former Prime Minister of Sweden, they developed a global model for sustainable corporate growth. They demonstrated ways in which organisations can benefit from addressing the long-term environmental threats that confront the world.
The participants came from throughout Europe, Asia, Indonesia, the Gulf Region, and North and South America, and included representatives of companies, NGOs and academics that have established corporate responsibility as a model for business growth. The industrialists represented manufacturing, financial and service sectors.
With Dr Wilson, who is based in Lower Heyford, as moderator, they explored the relationship between the current economic collapse, poverty, and the Green economy. He explained; “Governments around the world have followed the UK lead by increasing public spending to promote economic growth. What we were able to demonstrate was that, by focusing this spending on the ‘big issues’ of climate and poverty, Governments can achieve a three-fold benefit rather than pursuing one that merely props up already exhausted markets.”
In his opening comments, Antonio Castro Guerra, the Portuguese Deputy Minister of State for the Economy and Innovation, said that market structures will change and that it is crucial to develop innovative responses linking policy, industry and society.
“The world stands at a crossroads. We can turn back to business as usual or we can choose to use the huge opportunity the green economy offers as a way out of the current financial crisis and as the means to create a just and sustainable world” added Dr Madhav Mehra, President of the World Council for Corporate Governance.
Ulric von Hentaller, of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, went on; “Governments have recognized that the most significant way in which they can redress the economic crisis is by immediate and targeted public investment.”
“Although PPPs, public private partnerships, have been used for some time, the current crisis brings their importance to the fore” commented Roman von Rupp, president of MEI Europe, based in Portugal.
The participants urged policy makers to ensure that this public spending focuses on environmental improvements, creating jobs that will address the financial crisis and will also, they believe, make dramatic in-roads into global poverty.
The group went on to identify a number of critical action points that they feel governments, industry and the public need to address.
1. We believe the focus of this investment should be in the field of renewable energy and achieved through open market competition rather than subsidy driven. Further employment opportunities exist in resource reclamation, and environmental restoration.
2. Accounting practices need to embrace social and environmental assets, with appropriate standards being developed and adopted.
3. A new generation of corporate leaders need to be nurtured – driven by personal values that are just, sustainable, peaceful, and participative and respect human dignity.
4. Sustainable industry is only realised when personal gain is not achieved at the expense of corporate and society needs.
5. We live in a global world but need to reengage at a local level, with small communities owning and monitoring business activities in ways that remain consistent with free-trade.
6. This local focus (5) applies to the ownership of enterprises and the regulation of their activities, and extends to the responsibility that those organisations have towards the many stakeholders that they impact upon.
7. Partnerships between government, industry and NGOs need to be focused on the combined approach to address the environment, economic and poverty crises.
8. The Millennium goals provide a starting point for this approach, but need to be reviewed with a stronger focus on the immediate context.