Governments failing to tackle sustainability challenges

Gurjit Degun
15 April 2014

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15 April 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Businesses should not rely on the government to come up with solutions to sustainability challenges, a conference was told.

Speaking in a Sedex Global Responsibility Conference panel debate about “megatrends” for the future of sustainability, Sally Uren, chief executive at Forum for the Future, identified government inaction as a continuing theme.

“Government has failed locally, nationally and internationally to come up with meaningful solutions to many of the challenges we face,” she said. “I don’t see that changing and so business has stepped in, which is good news because business can create change.”

Uren added: “You do need government to set frameworks and policies. Government does need to come in and do what it’s supposed to do and set the frameworks and regulation, and for me something the government is not asking itself is ‘what is it that only we can do?’”.

Fellow panellist Robert Barrington, executive director at Transparency International, added he did not think government will rise to such a challenge.

But John Morrison, executive director at the Institute for Human Rights and Business, predicted public procurement will become more innovative to drive sustainability in the future.

“I think over the next few years we will see a lot more experimentation and innovation by local authorities, national governments and others around quality and value,” he said. “That’s going to be really exciting.”

Other megatrends highlighted included a move to more corporate transparency, an increase in sustainability and greater awareness of third-party labour provisions.

“Companies that are not transparent should consider themselves on the wrong side of the argument,” added Barrington. “They’re pushing against a tide that is flowing in the other direction.”

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