By Gabriela Burian
Global Lead, Sustainable Agriculture Environment
“Climate change threatens irreversible and dangerous impacts, but options exist to limit its effects.”
That’s the headline on the concluding installment of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published just this past Nov. 2. And if ever there was a good news/bad news message, I think you’d have to say that’s it.
It was to try to find the opportunities for good news that Hugh Grant, our chairman and CEO, and I went to Atlanta in the first week of November for the annual meeting of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This is a CEO-led global association of some 200 international companies seeking to galvanize the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. The organization is based in Geneva and has an office in New York. Monsanto originally joined the group in October 2012.
The meeting focused on six priority clusters: Social Impact, Sustainable Lifestyles, Climate & Energy, Water, Ecosystems & Landscape Management, and Safe & Sustainable Materials. Agriculture is obviously central to many of these challenges.
I’m glad to say that the meeting was productive. By the end of the week, the members had developed three priorities that relate to all six of the clusters. These priorities will constitute the focus of our activity over the next year.
Climate change – As you may know, the next round of United Nations-sponsored global climate talks is scheduled for next November and December in Paris. We agreed at the meeting in Atlanta that we will all work on “Road to Paris” business solutions. In the case of agriculture – including Monsanto, obviously – that question becomes, “How can agriculture contribute to the development of a low carbon economy?”
Redefining value in corporate reporting – We all know that what gets measured gets managed. The WBCSD launched a major initiative last year to push companies toward what it calls Integrated Reporting. That means going beyond the customary focus on financials and reporting on social and environmental impacts.
Monsanto already does this with our Sustainability Report, which follows the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). But at the Atlanta meeting, we all agreed to pursue the goal of more attention and impact for these integrated reports, so they can play a greater role in corporate decision making.
Sustainable development – Next year will mark the expiration of the 15-year timeframe for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the United Nations in the year 2000. Now the UN is developing a post-2015 agenda related to the same goals – such fundamental matters as eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality and ensuring environmental sustainability. The WBCSD is a participant in the development of this post-2015 agenda. Meanwhile, the WBCSD has already developed Action2020, an agenda for business to take action on sustainable development to 2020 and beyond. We agreed in Atlanta to do what we can to build alignment between Action2020 and whatever agenda the UN eventually adopts as a successor to its MDGs.
It’s all very important work, and it’s exciting to me that our company is so deeply engaged in it. If we are going to succeed in creating a sustainable world in the 21st century, the global business community will have to play a huge role. Participating in the WBCSD is one way our company can do that.