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Private sector trying to improve environmental, social performance says UN report

Private sector trying to improve environmental, social performance says UN report

Private sector trying to improve environmental, social performance says UN report
United Nations
May 11, 2006

A growing number of business and industry groups are making efforts to improve their environmental and social performance, especially in such fields as global warming, but more still needs to be done, according to a new United Nations report released today.

“The progress is especially evident with respect to key global issues, notably climate change, and in high impact industries that face heavy criticism from stakeholders and public institutions,” said Monique Barbut, Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, which produced the report.

The study, Class of 2006: Industry report cards on environment and social responsibility, coincides with the 14th Session of the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in New York and provides an update on progress across some thirty industry sectors since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

“Four years on from WSSD there are some signs of hope coming from the class of 2006,” Ms. Barbut said. “If numbers and statistics are not always available, at least new policies, technologies and programmes have been introduced in a number of instances. The first steps towards measurement of sustainability impact and improved management are being taken.

According to a study released this week in Conservation Biology
Shell Oil in Gabon has proven to be an exemplary steward of the environment with its activities in a rainforest concession in the Central African country.

“Having said this, it must be mentioned that some industry sector organizations appear to stick to old models of industrial development and are not on track towards sustainable development. In this respect, more needs to be done, and we must continue to strive for greater progress,” she added.

The challenge today, according to the report, is to speed up progress, doing accountable reporting against corporate responsibility commitments and strengthening engagement of business and industry from rapidly industrializing developing countries. In most cases, significant steps have been taken towards putting policy, programmes, new technologies and reporting systems in place.

The report cards were prepared by 45 business and industry organizations and initiatives, including newcomers to the process such as cement, coffee, detergents, mining, paper, postal services, public transport and renewable energy, who volunteered to participate.

Four years ago, a UNEP report prepared for the WSSD concluded that there was a growing gap between the efforts of business and industry to reduce their impact on the environment and the worsening state of the planet. The latest report “shows that while more needs to be done, the gap between words and deeds is starting to close,” Ms. Barbut said. “The real challenge now is implementation of environmental practices by smaller companies in industrialised countries and strengthened engagement of business and industry from emerging market economies.”

In a related development, the UN Climate Change Secretariat said today there had been an exponential rise in investment into emission reductions through the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, which calls for industrialized countries to reduce their combined emissions of six major greenhouse gases during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012 to below 1990 levels.

“The fact that the carbon market is enjoying such remarkable growth is a clear indication of the success of the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms,” the Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Halldor Thorgeirsson, said at the opening in Germany of the Cologne Carbon Expo, the world’s largest carbon fair.

In addition to implementation of climate-friendly policies at home, the Protocol allows countries to meet their emission targets through the market mechanisms. For example, the clean development mechanism (CDM) allows industrialized countries to generate emission credits or allowances through investment in emission reductions projects in developing countries.

“In December 2005, there were 40 CDM registered projects, with 500 in the pipeline,” Mr. Thorgeirsson said. “Now we have more than 176 registered projects and approximately another 600 in the CDM evaluation process leading to registration. The numbers speak for themselves.”

The Kyoto Protocol has 163 Member States, although the United States, accounting for about 24 per cent of global fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions, has not joined.

This article is a modified news release from the United Nations.

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