by Adalila Zelada Tuesday, Sep. 03, 2002 at 2:56 PM

In an effort to turn the WSSD's sustainable development goals into profit-making ventures that will "green" its image, the business lobby gathered yesterday for a full program of "Business Day" activities, featuring representatives from notorious environmental destroyers such as Dow Chemical and Syngenta Corporation. They blamed poverty for the woes of the planet and tried to downplay their own abysmal records.


September 2, 2002

by Adalila Zelada

JOHANNESBURG, S.A. - Corporate lobbyists armed with Power Point presentations have taken over the Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg for the duration of the United Nation’s World Summit on Sustainable Development from August 26 to September 4. The Summit brings together more than 100 world leaders to debate the environmental and economic future of the globe.

The International Chamber of Commerce and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have launched an initiative called Business Action for Sustainable Development to ensure that business interests are represented in the official deliberations. BASD lobbyists, present at all the U.N.’s preparatory meetings for the Summit over the last year, apparently have already been successful in watering down language in the official documents deemed restrictive of business and in inserting text favoring markets and trade.

BASD designated Sunday, September 1 as “Business Day” at the Summit, an entire day of panels at the Hilton featuring, among others, speakers from the mining, fertilizer, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, all of which are principal sources of the planet’s environmental problems. DuPont, the chemical company that has brought the world everything from explosives to genetically modified foods, sent its CEO, Charles Holliday, Jr. who has co authored a book titled “Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development.”

The BASD agenda also includes improving the “green” image of the corporate world by showcasing environmental “partnerships” between the business community and governments or non governmental organizations. A more controversial aim is made clear in a document released by the WBCSD: “Governments that make it hard for business to do business,and that try to take the place of business in meeting people’s needs, keep their people poor.” The notion is that government should let business solve problems through market forces. Civil society groups resisting this idea, however, contend that it is exactly this laissez-faire model that has driven the earth and its inhabitants to its miserable state. Eric Mann, director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, California, argues this system is responsible for “polluting the oceans and rivers and the air we breathe” as well as “warming the globe and placing entire island states in danger of extinction.”

While the business community faces heavy opposition from environmental and social justice activists, it clearly has the full support of the United States. Bush Administration delegates to the Summit have aggressively advocated that the World Summit accommodate free market theories and institutions to address the planet’s problems. The United Nations seems to be caving to their demands. In his presentation yesterday afternoon at Business Day, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan stressed his belief that the business community is key to achieving sustainable development, a message which received a warm applause from the suit-and-tie audience of entrepreneurs. Nitin Desai, the U.N. Secretary General for the World Summit, also likes to repeat the corporate claim that environmental protection and economic growth are a “false trade-off,” that, in fact, they are “mutually supportive”--a claim hotly contested by many of the thousands of activists who have come to Johannesburg.