Big businesses pledge a cleaner, safer world
RIO DE JANEIRO - Microsoft and other firms attending the Rio+20 business forum are falling over each other to prove their corporate responsibility credentials, but critics remain highly sceptical about their commitments.
About 1000 business chiefs from around the world are attending a four-day corporate sustainability forum, organised by Global Compact. The compact, a United Nations initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to respect human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles, has 7000 corporate participants in 135 countries.
On Sunday, US technology titan Microsoft announced plans to achieve net zero emissions for its data centres, software development centres, software development labs, offices and employee air travel by boosting energy efficiency and buying renewable energy.
"We said we would be carbon neutral starting July 1," Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmentalist strategist, told a press conference.
This would be achieved in part through offset, meaning balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered, or buying enough carbon credits to make up thedifference.
Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, says it will reduce its CO2 emissions by 8% for every ton of steel produced by 2020, based on a 2007 baseline.
Eskom and US Duke Energy have pledged to assist the development of an electrification road map to ensure 500-million people across Africa and developing countries have access to energy by 2025.
These are some of the more than 100 corporate commitments.
But critics have accused Global Compact of acting as a marketing tool for big business.
The compact rejects the charge, saying its scheme incorporates a strict accountability mechanism under which signatories must report annually on their implementation or risk expulsion.
On the commitments made by Eskom and Duke Energy, Daniel Mittler, political director of Greenpeace International, said: "(They) are trying to look good here at Rio, but they are among the worst polluters and are actively holding back sustainable development."
Greenpeace is also taking Microsoft, along with Amazon and Apple, to task for not quitting the coal habit. "Giant data centres which store and send the terabytes of pictures, e-mails, songs and streaming videos we enjoy every day are now one of the fastest growing sources of new electricity demand in the world," the group said.