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Annan tells business: ‘don’t wait for governmental lead’

October 2002

United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan has urged business not to wait for governments to act on social and environmental issues – but to take action themselves.

Annan told delegates at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg that companies ‘need not wait for governments to take decisions’ on issues such as climate change and how to tackle poverty.

In a tacit admission that political leaders at the summit had been unable to reach any significant global social and environmental agreements, he added: ‘We realize that only by mobilizing the corporate sector can we make significant progress.’

About 700 companies attended the Johannesburg World Summit – a far greater number than the Rio Earth Summit ten years ago.

Prior to Annan’s statement, a business group and one of the best-known non-governmental organizations jointly condemned governmental inaction on climate change at the summit.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace said: ‘We both share the view that the mixed, often contradictory signals sent by governments on the environment, especially on greenhouse gas emission reductions, are creating a political environment which is not good for business nor, indeed, for the future of humanity.’

Greenpeace political director Remi Parmentier said that while the WBCSD and his organization had fought ‘like cats and dogs’ ten years ago at the original Rio summit, they had now agreed to put aside their differences and make a stand on the risks of climate change.

The WBCSD said it would continue to disagree with Greenpeace on various matters, but that it was happy for both to work together in a bid to make politicians do more.

‘Environmentalists want it for the planet, business wants a level playing field that avoids the confusion of differing national implementations, and both of us want governments to do something,’ it said.




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