The United Nations on Friday wrapped up the Rio+20 Earth Summit, a once-a-decade conference on sustainable development, with the message that the world needs to clean up its act. Some major-league companies signed on to put some financial muscle and their brands' influence behind the effort. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have found something they can agree on as both have put cash behind the UN’s goals. Others involved include Microsoft, and Bank of America, according to Bloomberg.
The pledges are worth billions of dollars and will help to “curb the use of fossil fuels, conserve water and encourage wider use of renewable energy,” Bloomberg reports. There are at least 517 commitments from different companies and at minimum $2 billion will be coming from the U.S. “We won’t save the world alone, but we’ll get half of it done, and we’ll get some momentum,” said Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday at Rio+20.
For its part, Coca-Cola is allocating $3.5 million to help create more sustainable water access in some African countries. "Access to safe water is essential for our company and our world,” stated Bea Perez, the company's Chief Sustainability Officer. “The sustainability of water resources is a top priority."
Additionally, according to Bloomberg, "More than 50 countries and 86 corporations, including Wal-Mart and Unilever, signed a declaration supporting natural capital accounting, a measure of wealth that goes beyond GDP by including the value of natural assets such as soils, watersheds and fisheries."
While some observers have been disappointed with what the countries gathered at Rio+20 are promising to do to help the planet, the corporate support of the event, where companies such as Panasonic promoted green innovation, is a welcome sign that others are concerned enough for the health of the planet to put their money where their mouths are. Plus, it is likely good for business as well.
“We need all the commitments we can get and have all investments aligned in the same direction, both private and public,” European Union Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik told Bloomberg. “We should not lose sight of the size and the dimension of the transformation we are facing.”
“The role of companies is all the more important for the world because so little has come out of governments,” Virgin founder and chairman Richard Branson commented in Rio. “Companies have really got to step in and do the best they can without the proper ground rules set by governments.”