Looking Back at Rio+20

As Rio+20 wraps up, it’s been an honor to be part of the Microsoft delegation and see first-hand how the private and public sectors are working together to find solutions to climate change. Much of the talk here at Rio has been about how the role of business at an event like Rio has changed dramatically from the very first Earth Summit 20 years ago. CNN’s report from Rio noted the same thing: “Businesses played a much bigger role at this summit than they did 20 years ago, with many observers saying they have actually taken the lead by providing real examples of sustainable development.”

The Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum underscored the role in finding climate change solutions that the private sector sees for itself. More than 2,700 participants from over 100 countries participated in the sustainability forum—and roughly half of those participants came from business. We were joined there by representatives from corporate sustainability leaders like Nike, Unilever and others who are focused on bringing sustainability into how they do business. I had the opportunity to address more than 1,000 people at the Closing Plenary for the Corporate Sustainability Forum, where I outlined Microsoft’s commitment to carbon neutrality and stated Microsoft’s support for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative spearheaded by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Earlier this week Rio+20 negotiations came to a close with the release of “The Future We Want,” a 49-page document that called for extending economic opportunities to the world’s poor while maintaining a sustainable environment. Heads of state gathered in Rio during the latter part of the week and accepted the document as the primary diplomatic outcome of Rio+20. The document does not call for specific reductions in climate emissions, which has been met by criticism in some quarters as a weaker outcome than many had hoped for. At the same time, the past two weeks have shown that while governments have an important role to play, we hope that there is an advantage for business in taking bold stands on sustainability and ultimately helping push the broader international community toward making important commitments toward reducing environmental impact.

Other highlights from Microsoft’s participation in Rio+20 include:

  • Microsoft playing an active role in both the UN Global Compact Corporate Sustainability Forum (CSF) and the Heads of State Summit
  • Our team attended over 85 sessions, over 70 bilateral meetings and 2 Memorandums of Understanding signed
  • Eye on Earth Networks recommended for use in the UN final outcome document – The Future We Want!
  • Microsoft booth in UNEP exhibit pavilion made of 100% recycled/reusable materials, displaying Surface, Xbox, Super WiFi and Emergency.lu
  • Strong online and social media presence highlighting Real Impact for a Better Tomorrow
  • Excellent feedback from government elites on our engagement with the UN and recent carbon neutrality commitment
  • Strong interest in how Microsoft is addressing building efficiency through IT

For Microsoft, we’re looking ahead to our new fiscal year that starts on July 1 and the beginning of our journey towards carbon neutrality. Our commitment to carbon neutrality, which will include the implementation of an internal carbon fee as well as investments in renewable energy, is an example of the type of environmental change that we believe can be spearheaded in the private sector. We look forward to continuing to partner with governments and NGOs on finding solutions to climate change—there remains much work ahead!

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