UNESCO Business and Climate Summit

Subhajit Biswas, Global MBA 2014-2015, India

Being an MBA student in a top university means being attuned to the changes happening around you. What could be a better experience than being able to listen and discuss with the top business and political leaders of the world how to take a more active role in the world de-carbonation process? Last week, I had the chance to be a participant at the UNESCO Business and Climate Summit held in Paris, where a variety of topics were being debated and discussed. The central theme- the effect of businesses on our climate cannot be ignored any longer. The keynote speech addressed the same, with the honorable president of France - Francois Hollande and the General Secretary of OECD, making a passionate call to action.

The summit as expected was attended by the business heads of many businesses from various sectors and industries. The keynote speech alone was attended by the CEO of Fibria and Carrefour, while the discussion was moderated by a broadcaster from BBC. There was a focus on a variety of issues and there was a recognized urgency to invite pledges and measures, in order to achieve a low carbon economy. During the speech, one thing was apparent to the observers, the days of viewing businesses as a separate entity to the rest of the world are over. Industries have to understand their role in society and act accordingly, the measures or policies whatever they maybe should reflect that.

Apart from the regular companies, the summit also hosted other non-profit organizations like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) and the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC). These organizations provide support for individuals and organizations looking for information on implementing policies dedicated to various climate issues facing the planet. 

From the keynote, we moved to a thematic session on modern cities. The topics under review were mobility, infrastructure and technology. For this session, we had the opportunity to listen to the CEO’s from Michelin, Vinci and SNCF. The general discussion was based on how to meet the climate challenge and develop innovative solutions with a goal to keep temperature increase to below 2 degrees. The session explored the emerging opportunities for cities to lead the way to low carbon prosperity. The speakers mostly spoke about the measures initiated by their companies in various cities like Mexico City, Toulouse, Hyderabad and Chengdu which has resulted in significant carbon emission savings and created awareness about the issue.

Being a part of the summit, one cannot help but understand the fast changing nature of the business climate. However, being a business school student one cannot help wondering, while there is a focus on saving the environment, are we being viewed only as consumers? Currently we are only creating standards and conforming to them, however there are no actions on ensuring that our future generations are also being included in the entire idea generation process as well. The present communication appears rather top-down than being an exchange of ideas on how to preserve the environment.

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