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U.N. Conference Encourages Sustainability Reporting

June 25, 2012

The Rio+20 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development wrapped up Friday with world leaders agreeing on a set of goals, including increased sustainability reporting.

Those goals include launching a process to establish sustainable development goals, detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development and promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures.

“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,” said a document approved Friday by the leaders of the summit. “We encourage industry, interested governments as well as relevant stakeholders with the support of the U.N. system, as appropriate, to develop models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting, taking into account the experiences of already existing frameworks, and paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, including for capacity building.”

While the U.N. conference generally appears to have fallen short of expectations for dramatic action on the environment, it did at least spur governments and the private sector to commit $513 billion in funding toward sustainable development and practices, while encouraging greater use of sustainability reporting.

Other goals include taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country, developing a strategy for sustainable development financing, and adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production. The document also focuses on improving gender equity, recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development, and stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy, among other points. With heat waves and wild fires consuming broad sections of the U.S. in recent days, after a spring of record-breaking temperatures, the need for action on the environment is becoming more urgent than ever.

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