April 26, 2012

Poll Reveals Majority of Sustainability Experts Fear Rio+20 UN Summit Will Be Wasted Opportunity

Multinational Corporations Expected to Play Key Role at June Summit


LONDON – According to a major international poll of sustainable development experts, a majority of opinion leaders surveyed (57%) view the Rio+20 United Nations Summit scheduled for June 20-22, 2012 as a critical opportunity to make progress on sustainability leadership, but very few (13%) think it will succeed.

As part of The Regeneration Raodmap, the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey polled 642* experts in sustainability from business, NGOs, academia and government in 77 countries. It found that most do not see a clear agenda for the summit (20%), and are not confident that key influencers and decision-makers will attend (35%). Although experts agree that the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development are the right themes for the summit, few experts believe that the conference will succeed in making significant progress in the transition to sustainable development.

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was perceived by many stakeholders as a success due to notable achievements, including increased public awareness of the problems facing the global environment, landmark agreements including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the creation of Agenda 21, and the establishment of international institutions such as the Sustainable Development Commission and the Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Whereas corporate entities were often thought to be at odds with the environmental and development goals of the 1992 Summit, corporate leadership is seen as key to ensuring a successful outcome at Rio+20 in June 2012. Experts say that global businesses need to work together to set priorities within an industry-specific context (70%) and that the private sector should both lobby national politicians on key issues ahead of Rio+20 (62%) and send CEOs to the Summit (61%).

“While the gap between the perceived importance of Rio+20 and experts’ expectations of it is discouraging, we see a strong opportunity for business to apply its ability to get things done,” says Eric Whan, GlobeScan’s Director of Sustainability. “Most companies need clarity to act on the sustainability agenda, and certainty on the future of both global governance and the green economy has been sorely lacking. That’s left only the precious few bold leaders to show the others the way forward.”

SustainAbility Executive Director Mark Lee said, “The global experts’ views captured in this survey make clear the urgency of the sustainability agenda heading into Rio+20. The question is whether leadership will emerge capable of generating any kind of breakthrough on commitments and progress in the near term.”

*A total of 642 experts were surveyed online between December 2 and December 19, 2011.

GlobeScan Foundation

The GlobeScan Foundation is dedicated to helping achieve a more sustainable and just world for all. To accomplish this we develop and apply a range of social science tools to give voice to global publics, help unlock collaboration and accelerate progress. Learn more here