Environment & Energy
In a groundbreaking speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned of an urgent threat to the global environment and called for a global treaty on climate change.
The UN General Assembly had conveyed a sense of urgency about sustainable development by convening an independent World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Published in 1987, the Brundtland Commission’s report was called “Our Common Future” and outlined a long-term global agenda to protect and enhance the environment by the year 2000 and beyond.
Mrs. Thatcher underscored that call to action. “Degrading land surfaces, polluting the waters and adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate” raised the prospect of “irretrievable damage to the atmosphere, the oceans, to earth itself,” the British Premier declared. Urgent action would only be effective if taken at the international level, she said, and countries must rely on industry to do the research and find the solutions. “The multinationals have to take the long view,” she added.
A year after the speech, Mrs. Thatcher was out of office but her words proved prophetic. Over the following two decades, business and nongovernmental organizations have supported and guided governments of the day to take the right decisions on the environment.
“While corporate environmental and sustainability management has made great strides in recent years, the working group concluded that a new level of stewardship will be required in coming years and decades.”
This year, the UN once again has moved center stage with a new Environmental Stewardship Strategy to be unveiled at the Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010. The new environmental strategy tool builds on the three environmental principles in the Global Compact and will provide business with clear directions and measures for years to come.
Keith Saveal, Head Corporate Health Safety and Environment & Business Continuity, represented Novartis at the Global Compact Summit and was a member of the working group that produced the Environmental Stewardship Strategy. The new strategy acknowledges that environmental challenges – from climate change and water issues to ecosystems and biodiversity – are growing in scale and complexity. While corporate environmental and sustainability management has made great strides in recent years, the working group concluded that a new level of stewardship will be required in coming years and decades.
“The Global Compact’s environmental strategy tool provides a challenge to all businesses and requires top level commitment, a visionary long term approach, strong communication and a drive across the entire supply chain,” Mr. Saveal said.
In the following interview, Mr. Saveal discusses environmental strategy at Novartis, the impact of the commitment to the Global Compact to date and future developments.