To what extent could big business forward “sustainable consumption and production”?: Page 2 of 2

Posted on 18 July 2018

Philippines. The challenge faced by grassroots producers looks like this: in 2017, the Philippines and Brazil have had the highest number of rights violations against land rights defenders, mostly involving mining interests.

The UNEP side-event presented that 40% of the multi-stakeholder One Planet Network is comprised of CSOs (19% from business, 17.5% from national governments). Despite this measure, qualitatively the need persists to create enabling environments of peoples’ organisations that push sustainable livelihoods.

Moreover, it is also important to highlight that environmental and social challenges linked to big business practices have proliferated due to international norms for de-regulation and liberalisation in the global South. These came historically at the expense ofnational policy space that could have halted unsustainable practices for the sake of people’s development. These regulations could have been important especially today, where there is a trend of growing monopoly power. The UN Conference on Trade and Development claims that the top 1% firms of the energy sector captured surplus profits from the norm of privatization during the 1990s and 2000s. [ii] Bayer and Monsanto, corporations that drive pesticide-driven agriculture, are making headway into a mega-merger in the agrochemical and pharmaceutical industry.

Part of the SDG 12 is pushing for national-level policies that are programmed for sustainable consumption and production. But we need to ask about the prospects of this, given current international investment rules willingly adopted by many Southern governments. What are the prospects of changes in companies’ unsustainable practices given this dynamic between international and national level – where multinationals could sue governments at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes for affecting profitability, with profits put over environmental concerns?

There is indeed a need for multi-stakeholder approaches in development. But we need to stress just the same the risk for de-contextualizing the conversation from the various impacts of transnational corporations’ activities. We have to go back to the necessity to assess these impacts on both people’s economic rights and climate vulnerability. There is a need globally and especially in the global South for more ambitious policy agenda to render corporations accountable. In the end, the need persists for development paradigms that are owned and led by people’s and grassroots organisations, who in turn could push sustainable consumption and production within the context of systemic change. ###


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