Green Business: What International Development Can Teach Business About Metrics

Shoot for the stars, reach the moon.

The United Nations’ ambitious focus in the past 20 years to eliminate global poverty is commendable. Poverty is a huge, complex, systemically challenging set of interconnected problems.

For all the progress made, the process has not been without failures, omissions, mistakes, detours and missteps. All played out on the global stage. For everyone to see.

Sustainability practitioners face similarly complex, interconnected challenges that span the worlds of government, business and civil society.

There’s a lot we can learn from to learn from the work already done for us. All it takes is a willingness to look beyond our own sandboxes .

Here’s Part 3 of my co-authored series on Sustainability Metrics for Greenbiz.com.

What International Development Can Teach Business About Metrics

Since 2000, the International Development (ID) community’s battle to end (or substantially reduce) poverty by 2015 has played out on the world stage. There have been delays, defeats and some solid accomplishments. In doing so, the development community’s thinking has evolved about what best constitutes effective aid and how to know whether it’s working.

We find significant lessons for the sustainable business world in the story of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the groundbreaking shift towards metrics that occurred with the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action. The ID community has been considering questions of direction towards greater levels of sustainability and how to measure their actual effectiveness over 13 long years of debate and trial and error. We could learn from their longer experience with sustainability goals and metrics.

Green Politics: Rio+20 Rolls Back to 2000

Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.

With few solid promises expected from the Rio+20 main stage, let’s look instead at a Side Event report that picks up the energy from the 2000 Millennium Summit.

Remember 2000? The world’s leaders came together at the “dawn of a new millennium” and vowed to end poverty by 2015.

Here’s the inspiring original United Nations Millennium Declaration.

And how the environment fared:

Respect for nature. Prudence must be shown in the management of all living species and natural resources, in accordance with the precepts of sustainable development. Only in this way can the immeasurable riches provided to us by nature be preserved and passed on to our descendants. The current unsustainable patterns of production and consumption must be changed in the interest of our future welfare and that of our descendants.

Elsewhere: to “intensify,” “strive,” and “spare no effort.” I like that.

(To properly frame this positive momentum, the September Millennium summit was held two months before the U.S. Presidential election, and three months before the U.S. Supreme Court handed the election to G.W. Bush. It was probably the worst-year ever for Vice President Al Gore and a huge thud of dismay for millions. “An Inconvenient Truth” was still six years away.)

Now, where was I? Right. 2012 edition.

Via GreenLaw, with thanks:

Global Environment Outlook: Environment for the future we want

The United Nations Environment Programme recently released its fifth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), a report on world progress towards the environmental aspects of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For those who lack the time to absorb all 525 pages of the report, UNEP provided a shorter trending report, Measuring Progress, which uses approachable charts and succinct text to show the state of global environmental goals (GEGs). The report was featured at a Rio+20 side event last week, and UNEP created a briefing document for policymakers.

The new Global Environmental Outlook offers scant really good news, scarcer great news. But it does show progress towards the environment–and future–we want.

As GreenLaw author and Pace University dean Lin Harmon recommends, it’s a worthwhile read.