How accountants can save the world

Accountants' Office

Will accountants save the world? That was one of the most provocative questions to come out of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development last week.

While it will take some time to get an answer to that question, the fact that it’s being asked demonstrates the level of concrete involvement in sustainability issues by the business community, which was more involved — and more engaged — than at any United Nations conference in history. And at least at the city and organization levels, cross-sector collaboration was evident, declarations rampant and commitment to concrete action well underway.

Especially in the finance sector, where arguably the most opportunity exists, I heard a lot that gave me reason to hope. During my time in Rio, I talked to bankers, accountants, business leaders and academics — all of whom spoke passionately about the need to value and appropriately account for nature.

Here are five efforts that stood out as examples of the role that just about every stakeholder in the financial markets system — bankers, investors, insurers, corporations, accountants, top executives, stock exchanges, or financial analysts — can play:

Natural Capital Declaration (NCD)’s 39 banks, investors and insurers (see Principles for Sustainable Insurance) joining forces with more than 50 countries — including the UK, Philippines and South Africa, as well as corporations, including Unilever, Dow Chemical and Puma — to make a collective call for natural capital valuation. A strong start, but one issue is that the larger financial institutions are not yet involved.

via How accountants can save the world — maybe | GreenBiz.com.

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Entrepreneurial solutions for a thirsty planet

Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...

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WHEN you can stroll over to a tap whenever you like and help yourself to a glass of clear, cool water, it is hard to believe that one of the biggest business opportunities of the 21st century, and one of the best opportunities for business to give back to society, lies in supplying fresh water.

But global demand for water has grown six-fold over the past century, while the population has quadrupled. If this trend continues, our current resources and infrastructure will not be sufficient to supply enough water to meet demand. While the global water industry is diversified and, in terms of committed capital, ranks on a par with the oil, gas and electricity industries, it has not attracted much private investment. It’s time for entrepreneurs and business leaders to get involved, because finding creative solutions to these challenges will require not just great political leadership and innovative research, but a transformation of business itself.

The perception of plenty is only an illusion: most of the earth’s fresh water is frozen in the polar ice-caps, trapped in the soil or in deep, inaccessible underground lakes; only 1% of all fresh water is available for people to drink and use. For the most part, the water sources we rely on — lakes, rivers, reservoirs and underground — are renewed by rain and snowfall. Our use should be sustainable in theory, but in some cases, we have already crossed the line and are depleting these sources. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, more than 60% of the world’s population will lack fresh water for drinking and cooking.

If you are an entrepreneur hoping to make a difference in your community or society, this is a sector you should consider. With so many people in need, and different challenges facing every region, there are limitless possibilities for innovation: new and better means of supply, delivery, recycling and treatment. The related area of water conservation touches on every aspect of life, from how people brew their morning tea to how companies manufacture goods.

via BusinessDay – RICHARD BRANSON: Entrepreneurial solutions for a thirsty planet.