The Guardian: Rio+20 - the Earth Summit diaries
Should we be grateful for small mercies as five stock exchanges commit to encouraging greater disclosure?
Tuesday 19 June 06.30
Seeking to turn around the supertanker that is capitalism is a thankless task.
I was speaking to the staff at UNCTAD and UN Global Compact who have been working hard to encourage stock exchanges to play their part in moving towards sustainable development.
For them, Rio +20 has been something of a celebration because after much sweat and tears they finally managed to convince five exchanges to make a vague commitment to being part of the solution rather than the problem.
Exchanges in Egypt, Turkey, South Africa and the US came together to commit to promote long-term sustainable investment in their markets.
But of course, what is more interesting is why the scores of other exchanges in the world have so far not chosen to join the party.
It's difficult to engage the exchanges, of course. because the greater number of trades in equities, the more money they make. So they are unlikely to take the lead on convincing investors to hold shares for the long term.
Where they can be useful is in encouraging companies, as part of their listing requirements, to include environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
So let's see what NASDAQ OMX, BM&FBOVESPA, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE) and The Egyptian Exchange (EGX) have committed to.
Unsurprisingly, not much. The press release says they "have voluntarily committed to work with investors, companies and regulators to promote long-term sustainable investment and improved environmental, social and corporate governance disclosure and performance among companies listed on their exchange."
They also plan to use what clout they have to encourage other exchanges to join the party.
The smaller exchanges in the developing world are likely to show most interest because investors are wary that their governance is not strong and showing leadership on ESG may in time give them a competitive advantage. This may in turn put pressure on the more established exchanges to wake up and take an interest.
But this is a slow process and is the equivalent of watching a snail crawl up Mount Everest, and time is not on our side.
Even Georg Kell, executive director of the UN Global Compact finds it difficult to give a ringing endorsement and instead looks to the future with, I imagine, his arms outstretched in prayer: "We take this opportunity to call on all stock exchanges around the world to join these leading exchanges in making this potentially transformative commitment." Emphasis on the world potentially!
Latest progress on integrated reporting - draft text
Monday 18 June 17.15
Here is the latest text from the draft Rio +20 agreement relating to corporate sustainability.
I am printing this in full to give you a sense of the current state of play. This version came out this afternoon after another set of negotiations.
"We acknowledge that the implementation of sustainable development will depend on active engagement of both the public and private sectors. We recognize that the active participation of the private sector can contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, including through the important tool of public-private partnerships. We support national regulatory and policy frameworks that enable business and industry to advance sustainable development initiatives taking into account the importance of corporate social responsibility. We call upon the private sector to adopt business practices such as those promoted by the UN Global Compact.
"We acknowledge the importance of corporate sustainability reporting and encourage companies, where appropriate, especially publicly listed and large companies, to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting cycle. We encourage industry, interested governments, as well as relevant stakeholders, with the support of the UN system, to develop models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting, building upon the experiences of already existing reporting frameworks, paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, including for capacity building."
Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors, has this to say about the latest text: "Brazil has done an excellent job in keeping the text on corporate sustainability disclosure in.
"The sections on regulation and policy measures in paragraph 44 are particularly important. After all it is for national government to correct the market failures of the capital markets which we currently suffer from.
"Paragraph 45 is important because it provides space for a process post Rio where the UN can facilitate discussions between reguators, stock exchanges, institutional investors and companies to develep policy measures to ensure corporate sustainability.
"Of course the text itself could be stronger and have committed the UN to develop an agreement or convention on corporate sustainability reporting at the UN general assembly this year. This would be important as companies need a coherent approach rather than a proliferaton of policies at a national level."
Walking the talk, especially when it comes to walking on water
Monday 18 June 14.45
Interesting, to say the least, that on the day 45 CEOs trumpeted their support for governments to step up action on water, that a new US report shows that most reporting on the issue by corporates remains weak and inconsistent.
Since 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US has required companies to disclose financially material risks from climate change to their investors. These risks include "significant physical effects of climate change, such as effects on the severity of weather (for example, floods or hurricanes), sea levels, the arability of farmland, and water availability and quality."
However, an investigation by Ceres, a coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups, found that although reporting has risen, it lacks data on financial impacts, quantitative water metrics and potential supply chain risks. The report covers eight key sectors; beverage, chemicals, electric power, food, homebuilding, mining, oil & gas and semiconductors.
"Most companies recognise the need to disclose water risk, but so far the information they are providing lacks specificity and the hard numbers their shareholders require to invest responsibly," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. "Water issues are one of the most immediate and deeply felt impacts of climate change across the world, and leaders at Rio+20 are well aware of that reality. Whether through water scarcity, extreme weather or loss of property to floods, corporations and their suppliers across the globe are exposed to water risks and can do more to avoid them. Disclosure is the first step, and it must be followed quickly by action."
So it seems that the message to corporates in general is not to expect from others what you fail to do yourselves.
Rio +20 is a tale of three cities
Monday 18 June, 08.45
I bumped into Oliver Greefield yesterday, who heads up the Green Economy Coalition and asked him to give his view on the prospects for Rio +20. Here is what he has got to say.
"The story of 2012 can be told as a tale of three cities. Davos, the world economic forum, where the world's powerful economic elite make deals and discuss how new systemic risks threaten their economic success.
"The second city, Porto Alegre, the world social forum, where the conclusion is that capitalism isn't working, globalisation is rewarding too few and damaging the livelihoods of too many. These two cities represent the extremes of a polarising world. The fissures between them are evident in occupy, austerity, youth unemployment, stalling economic confidence.
"The third city Rio sits between these poles, on the agenda a new economy, one defined by fairness, inclusion and an improved relationship with the natural world. Will this city and this conference give birth to a new economic vision that can bring these poles closer together and forge a better future for all?
"The Porto Alegre community is not convinced. It is greenwash, a green face of the same old power. It is the commoditisation of nature. Their trust and confidence in politicians to forge a new economy has long since waned. For the Davos community, Rio does not register, most businesses do not come and the Prime Ministers, who queued for Davos, don't turn up.
"But we are here and what do we see? Nation states are arguing against binding agreement in order to protect their economic freedoms. National self-interest does not add up to global common sense.
"But Rio matters because it is the only authentic open discussion on a new economy. It is a stepping stone not a turning point. The vision is emerging, painfully. The foundations are being laid for the next stage, engaging the political economic powers that did not turn up, and those people that are still excluded."
Stack up all global sustainability initiatives and they don't stack up to a row of beans - WBCSD boss
Monday 18 June, 08.30
Peter Bakker, the new head of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is refreshingly honest: when you put together all the sustainability initiatives across the world, they don't really add up to a row of beans.
Or to put it in this own words "they don't even begin to make a dent in creating a more sustainable world."
So what is his solution? "We need urgent and radical action in order to scale up solutions worldwide. And there's no stakeholder better positioned to create and implement solutions than the global business community."
This explains why he has put his name to an extraordinary coalition of business leaders, trade unionists, scientists and NGOs, the Friends of Rio, which is calling on governments to bring innovative collaborations into the heart of government thinking.
He says: "Business has the technology, innovation, management skills and financial resources to help lead us toward a more sustainable future, and mind you, business has the will to do this. However, governments around the world have so far both underestimated and undervalued business skills."
He points to the WBCSD's new report Changing Pace which provides a detailed blueprint of policy recommendations to help scale up business solutions and tackle our most pressing sustainability challenges.
"Let's not forget that we're all in this together. The challenges we face are so enormous that we all need to collaborate and scale up quickly," he says. " We need to develop a clear set of ambitious global goals for sustainable development while also creating the policies and frameworks needed to accelerate their delivery. This is an invitation for multi-country and multi-stakeholder coalitions of willing and able actors to undertake explicit sets of action now to help achieve these urgent goals for a more sustainable future for all."
Corporate taxation one of the elephants in the Rio +20 convention headquarters
Sunday 17 June, 12.00
There are so many elephants in the room in Rio that despite the enormous convention space, you still have to watch your step so you don't bump into one.
One of those rather large beasts is the issue of corporate tax, which Pavan Sukhdev yesterday said perversely did not appear in any of the Rio +20 negotiations. As he joked, it's called the 'zero draft' because there is no tax in it.
Today, that debate hotted up with campaigners led by Christian Aid arguing that getting multinational companies to pay the taxes they owe would generate billions in funding for sustainable development.
Christian Aid estimates that developing countries alone lose $160 billion a year to the problem - far more than they receive in aid.
"Simply getting multinational companies to pay the taxes they owe developing countries would generate billions more for life-changing initiatives such as sustainable energy for all," said Dr Alison Doig, Christian Aid's Senior Adviser on Sustainable Development.
"The latest text here in Rio speaks of the need to mobilise ''adequate financial resources'' to achieve universal access to clean energy - but it is completely silent on where the money might come from. Getting multinationals to pay their taxes is an obvious place to start."
Christian Aid is campaigning for multinational companies to be required to disclose more about their finances, including the taxes they pay and the profits they make in each country in which they operate. This would help tax authorities identify companies which appear to be dodging tax by artificially shifting their profits into tax havens.
The development agency is also calling for Governments to automatically share information with each other about who owns what within their borders, to make it more difficult for companies and individuals to hide their wealth and income offshore.
Why Rio +20 and the search for a global solution is destined to failure and how green unilaterlism is the way forward strong
Sunday 17 June, 11.20
I have a lot of respect for Simon Zadek's views and in a new blogpost he highlights why the Rio summit cannot work and that the best way forward is for self-interest to dominate.
Zadek, an independent advisor and senior visiting fellow at the Global Green Growth Institute and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, does not expect to win many friends with his views.
You may not agree, but he is playing an important role in challenging the prevailing view here. Even if you think he is wrong, it will have helped to fire-test your own beliefs. Here is a flavour of what he is saying:
"Despite the goal of unity and collective action underpinning the Rio summit, the best way forward for the global economy is to build on the actions that individual countries and regions are taking in pursuit of their own interests.
"There is no consensus about how to achieve sustainable development, exemplified by disagreement over the potential of "green growth." Advocates argue that "clean tech," "smart financing," and "investment-grade" public policies will usher in a new and enlightened era of economic growth that does not degrade the environment.
"For opponents, however, green growth is more like "green-washed growth" – a merely cosmetic change to the business-as-usual approach that gave us the global financial crisis, and that perpetuates poverty and exacerbates inequality.
"Given this divergence, policymakers must grasp today's immediate opportunities, rather than rely on the desirable – but remote – possibility of global consensus. Counting on today's resource-intensive, profit-driven world economy to deliver quickly the global public goods of environmental security and development requires profound optimism, especially given the dire political and economic circumstances of key powers, notably Europe and the United States. Capital markets' shortsightedness – on plain display in recent years – does little to raise hopes.
"Although investment in clean technology is on the rise, it is far from reaching the more than $1 trillion annually needed to deliver green energy and infrastructure fit for the twenty-first century.
"In its current state, the global economy is unfit to serve today's collective needs, let alone tomorrow's. Capital markets must be reformed, not only to ensure that they are resilient – the focus of financial-market reform nowadays – but also to guarantee that money is allocated in ways that secure the resilience of the real economy and the natural environment on which we depend. Meanwhile, policymakers must take advantage of concentrated, policy-directed economic assets to catalyze a greener, more sustainable economic transformation.
"The most powerful force in today's global political economy are unilateral decisions taken by countries and regional groups in pursuit of their own economic interests. It is a force that should be leveraged through international collaboration aimed at enhancing such decisions' national effectiveness and their contribution to addressing the provision of global public goods. Those attending the Rio+20 Summit should embrace this promising, if awkward, strategic opportunity."
The words of UNEP's Achim Steiner
Sunday 17 June, 07.00
Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is impressive in the way he articulates the challenges we face and some of the solutions, even if the organisation he runs does not live up to his own spirit.
It's important to hear what he says as he will play an increasingly important role on the world stage if plans go ahead to beef up UNEP's role.
I have paraphrased what he said as he spoke a little too quickly to take fully accurate notes and my recorder did not pick up his voice clearly, but here goes.
Rio +20 is about two key issues, the world economy and a new era of governance and they are very much connected.
The framework that came out of the 1992 Earth Summit remains relevant but the surprise from this year will not be regulatory agreements but a groundswell of change from the bottom-up.
We can blame the politicians and the markets for our predicament but we all have had a role in the failure to address the social, environment and economic challenges we face.
Unless we can address the conditions under which our society and economies function, we will remain pioneers and have only aspirations of what can be done.
The environmental community has been scared of economics for too long. If we do not go into the heart of the political economy, we will meet here at Rio +40 and we will be culpable of not having looked at the right issue.
Markets are not god given formulas that function according to science , they are social constructs. They can be governed and that is our agenda, not to surrender to markets that are often framed by vested interests.
The green economy is not the prerogative of rich countries. If developing countries wait for foreign technology, they will wait for another 20 years . Countries need to look at the resource base within their own national boundaries.
My interpretation of the green economy for developed countries is that your footprint is too large and that means reducing your footprint and consumption and de-coupling economic development from resource use.
For developing countries it essentially means moving away from an energy economy by jumping to new technology, which is very feasible.
The future of governance is not about the future role of UNEP. If we want to see effective multilateralism of the future, we have to change all our institutions.
Whether UNEP is upgraded or not, that is a means to the end and that goes back to how do we recapture the narrative and discourse of the economy and show that there is not only one way of doing this.
Can the financial sector rebuild trust by returning to its original purpose of funding the development of society?
Saturday 17 June, 22.15
Everyone recognises that we are not going to get sustainability initiatives to scale unless the financial sector turns away from its speculative past and remembers its true role is to help support the development of society.
So it's interesting to see new evidence unveiled at Rio +20 that shows that the big financial institutions have something to learn from smaller values-based banks which appear better equipped to cope with volatility and provide better returns.
Large financial institutions, which the Financial Stability Board calls Globally Systemically Important Financial Institutions GSIFIs), and which co-ordinate the movement of vast capital flows, had a loan/assets average of 37.8% in the four year period ending in 2010, with the remaining 62.2% tied up in speculative activities.
This contrasts with smaller value-based banks dedicated to sustainable finance which had a loan/assets average of 69.5% over the same period.
Similarly, over the same timeframe, the lending ratio of value-based banks increased by 80%, while the lGSIFIs managed only a 20% rise.
Meanwhile, a new initiative was unveiled tonight in Rio, 'banking because the future matters, ' which aims to re-focus the financial sector on long-term resilience and prosperity.
CEOs from the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a network of sustainable banks, the Green Economy Coalition, the largest civil society alliance working on green economy, and the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development announced a series of proposals, backed up by practical actions.
The hope is these will help create new sustainable products, promote diversity to increase innovation, improve long-term sustainability reporting and discourage speculative activities with no social benefit.
Andrew Kroglund, Director of Information and Policy at the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development, said; "Reforming the financial system will require a range of enabling policies, and cultural changes. We believe today's proposals provide an important contribution to a system that has little to do with short-term profit, and everything to do with long-term value creation."
Rio +20 negotiators behaving as though there is no world to save
Saturday 16 June, 21.15
If you thought pulling teeth was bad, then join the negotiating teams at Rio +20 who seem to be spending a long time and a great deal of effort going nowhere. Anyone would think there was no world that needs saving.
The Brazilians have now taken over the negotiations but the first attempt at a compromise negotiating text released tonight shows as Ida Auken, the Danish environment minster, points out that "there is a loooong way to go."
WWF have done some analysis of the text and here is what Lasse Gustavsson, their head of delegation has to say: "While we think some of the new text is a good base for the future, such as the language on oceans, we see a lopsided victory of weak words over action words – with the weak words winning out at 514 to 10.
"Diplomats now only have a few days to salvage this process before world leaders show up. We're hoping they've stocked up on coffee and sleep because they've got some long nights ahead of them if they want to avoid embarrassing their bosses.
"The negotiating text is peppered throughout with words like 'support,' 'encourage' and 'promote,' and is very short on strong language like 'must' and 'will.'
"'Encourage' is used approximately 50 times, while the word 'must' is used three times. Apparently, negotiators really like the word 'support' – they used it approximately 99 times – but can't bear to use language like 'we will,' which appears only five times.
"The weak words appear in the parts of the text we most need hardened up – the section on green economy launches a process which they already launched in 1992. The language around much needed sustainable development goals and the language around energy, which could have been written by the oil and gas industry, also fall short.
"We don't need meaningless pages right now. What we need is a manual to save the world."
Perhaps the negotiators would concentrate their minds if they were taken out of their conference rooms and were forced to meet in one of Rio's favelas, and not allowed to leave until they learn the art of collaboration, rather than seeking to land punches on each other.
Should we be feeling sorry for the mining industry?
Saturday 16 June, 17.00
The mining industry is seeking to change its image after the browbeating it has received over the years for voraciously exploiting resources and communities.
Nick Holland, the chief executive of Gold Fields, the world's fourth largest gold miner, was speaking today at the iied conference on business models for sustainability. In fact several mining companies are at Rio +20 to get a joint message across that they are reformed characters.
One programme they are collectively looking at currently is creating the equivalent of an FSC paper certification scheme for their own industry.
Holland says that in the past, the sector deserved the criticism that had been heaped upon it but that there has now been fundamental change.
Another mining company points out that western mining companies come up smelling of roses compared with Chinese corporations that are seeking to build their profile across Africa and beyond. Chinese companies are accused of not developing local skills, drafting in their own nationals and not consulting with communities.
Holland says: "Ten years ago the mining industry was trying to reconcile the concept of sustainable development with business objectives and trying to counteract the great wave of negativity surrounding the industry."
"We have been looking to integrate sustainability into all aspects of our business and explain why mining is in fact relevant – there was growing concern about the impact of mining and the industry paused and reflected and recognised it was important to explain why it is important to society in general.
"If mines are going to operate into the future in the next 10-20 years, environmental stewardship is a pre-requisite. Twenty years ago we did not even consider the local communities – as a result several mines are unbuilt because local communities felt they were not included in the decision.
"In this industry there are long paybacks and significant risks and investors have to be rewarded but governments have to see a benefit and communities want local development."
Holland uses all the right words but we also know the situation is often more complex on the ground. A recent report from the iied said that while the industry has made much progress over the past decade "it is not always clear how information discussed at the international level can be translated into something meaningful to communities faced with mining on their land. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is often asked, for instance, what good is it knowing what a government receives in mining revenues if local people don't get to know how it is spent."
Looking ahead, Holland says there is a misperception that with resource prices rising, mining companies are making sky high profits but points out that while commodities are on an upward trend, the share prices of mining companies are heading in the other direction.
He warns that a combination of resource nationalism and higher taxes may prevent further investment in the development of new mines, and that will have knock of effects in slowing global economic growth.
What he fails to point out is that if Western companies do slow down their investment, Chinese companies are bound to fill the gap.
All the excuses banks and financial institutions gave for not signing up to landmark new Natural Capital Declaration
Saturday 16 June, 13.30
On the surface, it's a positive step that CEOs at the helm of 37 banks, investment funds, and insurance companies today committed to working towards integrating natural capital considerations into their products and services.
That's because the financial sector has been lagging way behind everyone else in terms of getting to grips with sustainability challenges, and that's being generous to them.
The 'Natural Capital Declaration' (NCD) commits signatories to help build a framework under which companies can benchmark performance, set targets and report on progress.
But look below the surface, and the message is as much one about pessimism as hope. Perhaps most telling is that most of the signatories are in the developing world, particularly Latin America, and that the only significant UK bank to get involved is Standard Chartered.
More than anything else this suggests that the financial institutions which are showing concern, are in countries where the problems of ecosystem decline are already staring them in the face.
Of more interest is the various reasons that banks in the UK and other developed countries gave for not putting their weight behind the project so that it has a hope of going to scale:
They wanted to be sure it did not clash with existing frameworks such as the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and Principles for Sustainable Insurance. It actually complements both of these.
They were concerned they would not be able to implement what they were signing up to because of resource constraints
Because the NCD is a new initiative and quite entrepreneurial, some preferred to follow rather than take the lead
The NCD must be signed by the CEO and some banks did not have the time to sign it off by today's launch date
Some were uncertain about what happens after Rio+20 and so wanted to wait for clarity
Finally, and perhaps most distressing, was some banks were worried that it was not clear how much they would have to pay if they participated.
So if future generations want to know why we did not do more to prevent ecological meltdown and the collapse of civilisation, at least they will now know.
Brazilian Senate leader says extreme weather one of greatest alerts to impending catastrophe
Saturday 16 June, 10.54
Interesting to hear Eduardo Braga, the leader of the Brazilian Senate, because he talked of the importance of recognising the simplicity of the issues we face before we look at the complexity of dealing with them.
Perhaps foremost is the recognition that everything is inter-connected and we can no longer see issues in isolation to each other.
He contrasts the terrible drought being experienced in the north-east of Brazil while the worst flooding since records began more than 100 years ago, has hit the Amazon.
Braga told the iied Fair Ideas conference in Rio that while the planet had experienced extreme weather changes in he past, they are becoming much more frequent. "This is one of the greatest alerts humanity needs to understand," he says.
Braga also says that it is important that policy-makers recognise that sustainability at its core is not an economic or an environmental issue, but a social issue. He says: "Don't ask a mother to choose between a tree or her childrens' hunger, she will aways choose for her children."
Key to the future is the recognition that we need to put a value on our resources and give "a living tree more value than a dead tree. When we put a value on cans, before they even fell on the floor someone was there to pick it up. We could do the same with plastic, paper and with fabric."
Divine intervention or is it all up to Brazil?
Saturday 16 June, 07.30
I am sitting in my hotel room opposite a large wooden sculpture of a monk earnestly praying. It's what most delegates will be doing as the big hitter politicians start to arrive at Rio +20 in the coming days.
The head of WWF's delegation in Rio+20, Lasse Gustavsson, is seeking inspiration, after seeing the preparatory negotiations end up in what he calls a mess.
Rather than look to God, though, he is putting his faith in Brazil, which now takes the lead on the negotiating process.
"We're going to need a political miracle. And we're going to need some heroes to emerge in this process – and for the villains to get out of the way," he says. But then he has to go and ruin it with a very bad pun "We need Brazil to play politics as well as they play football."
The CEO Rio+20 numbers game
Saturday 16 June, 07.00
Question: How many CEOs does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: At least 30 or no-one will be there to witness it
This is my rather bad joke on a rather important issue – the numbers game or to put a more sophisticated spin on it – how do we reach scale.
It used to be that CEOs would want all the glory themselves when a new sustainability initiative was launched.
But to create waves now, initiatives need to have what looks to be at least 30+ NGOs signing on the dotted line.
A good example is today when 37 finance CEOs announce their commitment to the Natural Capital Declaration. We will be seeing other initiatives announced that have upwards of 30-40 company bosses signing up.
Of course, in the numbers game, no-one can compete with Georg Kell, executive director of the United Nations Global Compact which has 7,000 members.
He told me the UNGC's CEO water mandate has already been signed by 100, and Caring for Climae has 400 chief execs with plans to grow this to 1,000.
Of course, men of a more modest persuasion will claim, it's not size but what you do with it that counts.
United Nations Global Compact to go into battle against trade associations
Friday 15 June, 22.00
The UN Global Compact, the world's largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative, is planning to wage a campaign to stop trade associations from undermining moves towards a green economy.
Georg Kell, the UNGC's executive director, told the Guardian that a board meeting next week is likely to agree to go on the offensive and directly target regressive chambers of commerce around the world.
On the day that the UNGC opened the largest ever business led private sector conference at Rio +20, Kell also made it clear that there are far too many companies that have progressive sustainability strategies, yet whose public affairs team are lobbying to maintain the status quo.
A recent survey it conducted of 1,800 companies found that of those with an explicit sustainability strategy, only 20% have aligned their government public affairs policy with their social and environmental policies.
"We know the reality of the role of business in shaping public policy is not where it should be," he says. "Many companies which have explicit sustainability policies are at the same time investing in business models of the past through trade associations and keeping a lock on policy making. This is a big contradiction.
"Unless the majority of companies lobby positively, the incentive structures won't change and then we won't go to scale on solutions. We are putting a lot of pressure on participants to bring in better alignment."
While Kell is happy to talk about how others need to change their ways, he is much more reticent to criticise the United Nations, which many say is too bureaucratic, complex and whose various agencies often compete with each other for private sector partnerships.
However, he did say that he expects the UN to go through a transformation process.: "It will take a little time for an inter-governmental organisation to adopt change but the course is set and I am quite confidence that in three years the UN will be radically different and have the capacity to partner and work with the private sector and civil society and academia on a large scale."
Kell says that those who fear that Rio +20 will be a failure because of the lack of a concrete outcome agreement are living in an old paradign and that the importance of Rio +20 is the creation of a new pathway that will encourage the development of public/private partnerships at scale.
"It is not a classic UN summit in the traditional sense that it will end up with an implementation blueprint and then we will spend 20 years implementing it," he says.
"This is the old top down model where you have a linear process in mind. This is a new world where you have to engage all actors. As a result of this meeting, lots of corporations and stakeholders will feel empowered and will make change happen."
The economic and financial crisis is hampering governments' room for manoeuvre so Kell says it is manner from heaven that companies are taking a more proactive role in confronting long-term social, environmental and economic challenges.
"One could argue that most governments are in crisis management mode," he says "yet they know that there are long term pressing issues that need to be tackled so they welcome private sector engagements and forming public private partnerships are a natural building block. Governments offer legitimacy and incentive structures while the private sector offers know-how, technology and operational reach. It is a wonderful combination."
Moving from multilateral to multi-dimensional
Friday 15 June, 19.30
Despite the absence so far of a significant political breakthrough in the Rio +20 negotiations, we are going to see a flurry of announcements over the next few days from groups of CEOs who are banding together to seek to quicken the pace of change.
It's interesting to see this growing collaboration between business leaders who clearly prefer to stick their collective heads above the parapet than go it alone.
What is particularly interesting is that some of the announcements are going to detail much broader collaborations with CEOs joining forces with civil society groups and development agencies.
So while the politicians are finding it difficult to find common ground, we are elsewhere witnessing the movement away from multilateral negotiations to multi-dimensional collaborations.
This is probably one of the most exciting developments we are likely to see coming out of Rio +20 and will offer the first tantalising evidence of the ability to start taking projects to scale.
Valuing natural capital
Friday 15 June, 19.00
One of the key topics at Rio+20 is the shift in understanding within the corporate sector of the need to start accounting for natural capital.
Companies have thankfully finally started to understand that they can no longer voraciously exploit our ecosystems without consequence.
Pavan Sukhdev, who led the UN TEEB report, is speaking tomorrow to launch his new Corporation 2020 movement. One of the key planks is a call for taxes on resource extraction. The aim is to make corporations use fewer resources while delivering the same or higher levels of products and services. This would involve taxing coal, petroleum, and many other minerals to steer the market away from resource-intensive growth and towards smart-technology industries in renewable energy, clean water, new and better materials, and waste management.
Also tomorrow we see the official launch of the Natural Capital Declaration, with the CEOs of 37 banks, investment funds, and insurance companies announcing a commitment to work towards integrating natural capital considerations into their products and services,
Friday 15 June, 14:30
Jason Clay, senior vice president of Market Transformation at the World Wildlife Fund has been talking about the NGO's approach to Rio.
WWF is calling for the establishment of new Sustainable Development Goals, supported by specific principles, criteria, measurable indicators and timelines. The NGO is concerned by continuing deforestation, and is therefore pushing for an economic value to be put on nature's resources. It particularly wants companies and governments to report on and reflect the environmental cost of their activities in national accounts and corporate balance sheets. Clay says this would help create a global marketplace that accurately prices the environmental and social benefits of, and costs to, natural resources.
He gives the example of a project between WWF and IDH (the Dutch public private partnership organisation) which is supported by the Dutch government, Unilever, Nutreco and Rabobank and explores how carbon could be incorporated into agricultural commodity prices.
WWF is also looking for developed countries to make clear and measurable commitments that incentivise sustainable consumption. Clay says: "Big or small, developed or developing, every country is best served by finding ways to manage natural resources sustainably and to steward the resource base for future generations."