Green Capitalism

“What we are concerned about is that Mother Earth is not for sale. Mother Earth is not a commodity to be traded on the trading system. The trees are not for sale.” Image of indigenous protest at Rio+20

Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Disney, Weyerhaeuser Join Forces to Protect the World’s Forests From Themselves?

The Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical and Duke Energy are among 24 major companies that have agreed to develop a methodology to assign value to the world’s forests, freshwater and marine systems. The Corporate Eco Forum and The Nature Conservancy are leading the Valuing Natural Capital initiative, announced at the United Nations’ Rio+20 Earth Summit.

Committed firms also include Alcoa, CH2M Hill, Clorox, Darden, Dell, Disney, Ecolab, EKO Asset Management Partners, Enterprise, FEMSA, GM, Hanes, Kimberly-Clark, Lockheed-Martin, Marriott, Nike, Patagonia, TD Bank, Unilever, Weyerhaeuser and Xerox.

In the New Business Imperative: Valuing Natural Capital report, the organizations lay out a four-step framework for the methodology, which includes reducing risks caused by scarcities of natural resources; finding ways to cut costs while reducing impacts to ecosystems; enhancing brand and reputation and winning trust from customers who value sustainability leadership; and fueling revenue growth from products and services that don’t harm ecosystems.

The declaration was designed to complement other Rio+20 initiatives working to embed natural capital considerations across business, finance and national accounting systems. “Natural capital” is a term for the goods and services ecosystems provide, such as fresh water and food.

Leaders of 37 banks, investment funds and insurance companies agreed at the summit to take better stock of the unsustainable stress put on ecosystems by the economic activity they manage, and work towards integrating natural capital into their products and services.

The Natural Capital Declaration, created by the UN Environment Program Finance Initiative, Global Canopy Program and Center for Sustainable Studies of the Business Administration School of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, calls for financial institutions to incorporate natural capital considerations into the risk assessment procedures they undergo before making a loan, equity, bond or insurance products-related decision.

The declaration also calls for policymakers at Rio+ to begin crafting legislation and regulations that can encourage the development of financial products and services that take account of and sustain the Earth’s natural capital.

The signatories are Athelia Ecosphere, ASN Bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Banco Multiva, Banco Pichincha, Banorte – Ixe, Caisse des Depots, Caixa Econômica Federal, Caledonia Wealth Management, Ltd., Calvert Investments, CDC Climat, China Merchants Bank, CIBanco, Cyrte Investments, Financiera Rural, FIRA – Banco de Mexico, Fundación Social, Infraprev, International Finance Corporation, MN, Mongeral Aegon, Mutualista Pichincha, National Australia Bank, Nedbank, Oppenheim, PaxWorld Management, Rabobank Group, Robeco, Shenzhen Development Bank, SNS Asset Management, Société Forestière, Sovereign, Standard Chartered, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holding, UniCredit, Vision Banco, Zevin Asset Management.

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  1. This is all fine in theory – but in practice what we will see is continued efforts to “greenwash” business as usual. How will these companies be held accountable? What controls will be imposed? Who will monitor the companies? Who will have the power to control the actions of these companies? While we should encourage these big companies to take care of the environment, it is not clear what real this Valuing Natural Capital initiative will have.

  2. Protecting the worlds forests? Unlikely. More like trying to capitalize on their perceived monetary value.

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