Towards Global Responsibility Corporate Accountability through Transparency
Towards Global Responsibility…
Corporate Accountability through Transparency
The Global Responsibility Founding Forum
16-18 November 2000
16 November 2000
Note: The opinions expressed by the speaker are of a personal nature and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EEA, the European Commission or any other Community Institute.
An updating of the Copenhagen Declaration
We must and can do something. It is now or never!
This was my perception in June 1999 and it
has only been confirmed since:
After many years in the business of environment, in private and public, and at regional, national and Community levels. I am not only optimistic (which you need to be anyway in this business) but positive, about the prospects for the Environment in the European Union.
We do have a diagnosis and a short term prognosis (until 2010) on the EU environment patient. And it says that the situation is not good and it will even get worse in some areas in the near future (e.g. waste, soil/land cover/biodiversity, chemicals, effects of the ozone layer depletion, greenhouse gases emissions and climate change) and there is still a lot to do so that the air we breath, the water we drink and the food we eat is of adequate quality. And all that results from inadequate economic development, or prosperity, inconsistent with the community goal (Art. 2 of the Amsterdam Treaty) of sustainable development, particularly in sectors such as transport, tourism, land uses, urban sprawl and infrastructures development, whose environmental pressures are coupled, in different degrees, to the economic growth, with road transport pressures growing faster than the economy.
However, the conditions and the signs for recuperation are emerging and the prospects are good in the medium term, for improving environmental quality and progressing towards more sustainable development and improved quality of life, if we take advantage of the emerging opportunities.
For the first time, I begin to see a shared vision and common interests from the real "doers": the economic sectors, business and local capacities and the environment sector. And for the first time, I see civil society and the public in general (as consumers in particular) and active groups and NGOs, eager and ready to participate actively; and the now possible common concern on climate change may bring a climax for change.
We must now seize these opportunities. The Cardiff European Summit (June 1998) Initiative, making all the relevant formations of the Council (and the related economic sectors) accountable in environmental sustainability terms, is establishing a fast operational track, including a reference model (indicators) and targets, and a real "ex ante" (anticipatory) and "ex post" (retrospective) mechanism of control (assessments and monitoring of progress and prospects and distances to target) capped by a EU Sustainability Strategy to be presented, together with economic and sectoral (Transport, Energy, Agriculture…) strategies, and hopefully agreed at the June 2001 Gothenburg summit.
The big challenges are: for the EU to show the way, first at the ongoing The Hague Climate Conference and then at the coming Stockholm and Gothenburg summits where strategies for sustainable development, in socio-economic and environmental terns, must emerge and converge, and then give an example of robust implementation of the sustainable development paradigm, and if possible beginning at Rio+10 (in 2002). This experience, and accompanying innovations, should be shared with Accession (new members of EEA) and developing countries, enabling them to "leap-frog" our history, and to find a more direct route to sustainability. Such European Leadership has the potential to bring the USA, and even the WTO, to see that there are more opportunities than threats in the sustainability agenda.
EU's Environment Policy has been a success on its own terms; a good repairing job, and no country could have done better outside; meanwhile, a general improvement of the environment has been jeopardised by unsustainability in the economic sectors. Now the EU environmental and sustainability policy will be a success by bringing the economic sectors along ("a policy of policies"). And the environmental sustainability process and experience extended to the social and economic dimension via the Lisbon summit process and related structural indicators (and targets) should complete the three pillars required to progress to the EU goal of more (no less) sustainable development.
So a frame for sustainable development including continuous review of policies under a consistent time schedule is emerging (being set) at EU level.
While there are still many questions open.
- Will all the economic and sectoral policies dare to agree on a package of (consistent) indicators?
- Will the sectors (Transport, Energy …) dare to fix/accept targets on time? Either on the strategies or in related follow-up plans?
- Will the sectors allow for external/independent (i.e. by the Agency) assessment of progress and benchmaking towards targets? Accountability, as it is already the case in Transport.
- Will the Cardiff initiative (towards the Gothenburg Summit) and the Lisbon-Feira process (towards Stockholm Summit) converge? And will both be capped by the demanded and still undefined EU Sustainability Strategy and dovetailed by a consistent and reduced package of sustainability indicators?
- Will the expected and still not much known 6th Environmental Action Plan be the reference for the environmental sustainability pillar? Will it establish the required principles, convergence criteria and policy pointers (as decoupling, eco-efficiency…) (topped by indicative targets) and related thematic or sectoral priorities and objectives ("obligation of results") and instruments ("obligation of means") to achieve this?
- And finally, will this process be replicated at national level?
With so many questions still open in the policy arena, when looking for a process and a frame for sustainable development, an answer is emerging. What about if information, transparency and related accountability and continuous benchmarking of policies set the frame we are looking for or a main part of it?
Nobody doubts anymore that under the information society with the related empowerment of the civil society and the consequent shift from a representative democracy to a participative one, information is becoming soft policy. And this is confirmed by the role that reports like the one recently produced by the Agency-EUROSTAT with DG Services for the Transport Sector based on a series of indicators that show its unsustainability and identify main weaknesses, and leverage or policy pointers for actions to improve it.
And what about if information, transparency and related accountability and benchmarking were also the frame to bring the "doers", businesses and municipalities along?
The Agency realised in its early days (and with not much support or enthusiasm from the policy makers at the time) that in order to make things happen, it had to go, when possible, beyond its core tasks (to provide information of direct use for framing and implementing policies, and to assure public information and participation) and provide and support, in a non discriminatory way, any information initiatives that provide for the main "doers", businesses and municipalities alike "to do good (environmentally) by doing well (in business terms)".
That was at the origin of the development of the ENVIROWINDOWS project (marginal project in resources terms as not to affect the core tasks of the Agency) under which the ideas of Sustainability Communication Platforms emerged for business and municipalities alike.
What you will be launching and discussing these days under the Global Responsibility Forum, including the related Communication Platform, may be a main spin-off of this bottom-up sustainability process that may make the described EU top-down approach shorten, faster and above all implementable. It may be this, but above all I think these projects are first the result of the personal determination of Karl Lidgren and above all the evidence of the will of the business community to make sustainable business the only possible one in the future.
By providing transparency through accountability and benchmaking in sustainability terms, I am pretty sure we will do good by simply doing well, and hopefully we can say (as already shown by the Dow Jones Sustainability index) that there is no business like sustainable business and that besides, there is no other one feasible or accepted by the shareholders, stakeholders and the market.
I wish you the best for the ongoing launching of Global Responsibility initiative and the related Business Sustainability Communication Platform.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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