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Agenda 21

Chapter 30

Strengthening The Role Of Business And Industry

1. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, play a crucial role in the social and economic development of a country. A stable policy regime enables and encourages business and industry to operate responsibly and efficiently and to implement longer-term policies. Increasing prosperity, a major goal of the development process, is contributed primarily by the activities of business and industry. Business enterprises, large and small, formal and informal, provide major trading, employment and livelihood opportunities. Business opportunities available to women are contributing towards their professional development, strengthening their economic role and transforming social systems. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, and their representative organizations should be full participants in the implementation and evaluation of activities related to Agenda 21.
2. Through more efficient production processes, preventive strategies, cleaner production technologies and procedures throughout the product life cycle, hence minimizing or avoiding wastes, the policies and operations of business and industry, including transnational corporations, can play a major role in reducing impacts on resource use and the environment. Technological innovations, development, applications, transfer and the more comprehensive aspects of partnership and cooperation are to a very large extent within the province of business and industry.
3. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, should recognize environmental management as among the highest corporate priorities and as a key determinant to sustainable development. Some enlightened leaders of enterprises are already implementing "responsible care" and product stewardship policies and programmes, fostering openness and dialogue with employees and the public and carrying out environmental audits and assessments of compliance. These leaders in business and industry, including transnational corporations, are increasingly taking voluntary initiatives, promoting and implementing self-regulations and greater responsibilities in ensuring their activities have minimal impacts on human health and the environment. The regulatory regimes introduced in many countries and the growing consciousness of consumers and the general public and enlightened leaders of business and industry, including transnational corporations, have all contributed to this. A positive contribution of business and industry, including transnational corporations, to sustainable development can increasingly be achieved by using economic instruments such as free market mechanisms in which the prices of goods and services should increasingly reflect the environmental costs of their input, production, use, recycling and disposal subject to country-specific conditions.
4. The improvement of production systems through technologies and processes that utilize resources more efficiently and at the same time produce less wastes - achieving more with less - is an important pathway towards sustainability for business and industry. Similarly, facilitating and encouraging inventiveness, competitiveness and voluntary initiatives are necessary for stimulating more varied, efficient and effective options. To address these major requirements and strengthen further the role of business and industry, including transnational corporations, the following two programmes are proposed.
Programme Areas
A. Promoting cleaner production
Basis for action
5. There is increasing recognition that production, technology and management that use resources inefficiently form residues that are not reused, discharge wastes that have adverse impacts on human health and the environment and manufacture products that when used have further impacts and are difficult to recycle, need to be replaced with technologies, good engineering and management practices and know-how that would minimize waste throughout the product life cycle. The concept of cleaner production implies striving for optimal efficiencies at every stage of the product life cycle. A result would be the improvement of the overall competitiveness of the enterprise. The need for a transition towards cleaner production policies was recognized at the UNIDO-organized ministerial-level Conference on Ecologically Sustainable Industrial Development, held at Copenhagen in October 1991. 1/
6. Governments, business and industry, including transnational corporations, should aim to increase the efficiency of resource utilization, including increasing the reuse and recycling of residues, and to reduce the quantity of waste discharge per unit of economic output.
7. Governments, business and industry, including transnational corporations, should strengthen partnerships to implement the principles and criteria for sustainable development.
8. Governments should identify and implement an appropriate mix of economic instruments and normative measures such as laws, legislations and standards, in consultation with business and industry, including transnational corporations, that will promote the use of cleaner production, with special consideration for small and medium-sized enterprises. Voluntary private initiatives should also be encouraged.
9. Governments, business and industry, including transnational corporations, academia and international organizations, should work towards the development and implementation of concepts and methodologies for the internalization of environmental costs into accounting and pricing mechanisms.
10. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, should be encouraged:
a. To report annually on their environmental records, as well as on their use of energy and natural resources;
b. To adopt and report on the implementation of codes of conduct promoting the best environmental practice, such as the Business Charter on Sustainable Development of the International Chamber of Commerce/(ICC) and the chemical industry's responsible care initiative.
11. Governments should promote technological and know-how cooperation between enterprises, encompassing identification, assessment, research and development, management marketing and application of cleaner production.
12. Industry should incorporate cleaner production policies in its operations and investments, taking also into account its influence on suppliers and consumers.
13. Industry and business associations should cooperate with workers and trade unions to continuously improve the knowledge and skills for implementing sustainable development operations.
14. Industry and business associations should encourage individual companies to undertake programmes for improved environmental awareness and responsibility at all levels to make these enterprises dedicated to the task of improving environmental performance based on internationally accepted management practices.
15. International organizations should increase education, training and awareness activities relating to cleaner production, in collaboration with industry, academia and relevant national and local authorities.
16. International and non-governmental organizations, including trade and scientific associations, should strengthen cleaner production information dissemination by expanding existing databases, such as the UNEP International Cleaner Production Clearing House (ICPIC), the UNIDO Industrial and Technological Information Bank (INTIB) and the ICC International Environment Bureau/(IEB), and should forge networking of national and international information systems.
B. Promoting responsible entrepreneurship
Basis for action
17. Entrepreneurship is one of the most important driving forces for innovations, increasing market efficiencies and responding to challenges and opportunities. Small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, in particular, play a very important role in the social and economic development of a country. Often, they are the major means for rural development, increasing off-farm employment and providing the transitional means for improving the livelihoods of women. Responsible entrepreneurship can play a major role in improving the efficiency of resource use, reducing risks and hazards, minimizing wastes and safeguarding environmental qualities.
18. The following objectives are proposed:
a. To encourage the concept of stewardship in the management and utilization of natural resources by entrepreneurs;
b. To increase the number of entrepreneurs engaged in enterprises that subscribe to and implement sustainable development policies.
19. Governments should encourage the establishment and operations of sustainably managed enterprises. The mix would include regulatory measures, economic incentives and streamlining of administrative procedures to assure maximum efficiency in dealing with applications for approval in order to facilitate investment decisions, advice and assistance with information, infrastructural support and stewardship responsibilities.
20. Governments should encourage, in cooperation with the private sector, the establishment of venture capital funds for sustainable development projects and programmes.
21. In collaboration with business, industry, academia and international organizations, Governments should support training in the environmental aspects of enterprise management. Attention should also be directed towards apprenticeship schemes for youth.
22. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, should be encouraged to establish world-wide corporate policies on sustainable development, arrange for environmentally sound technologies to be available to affiliates owned substantially by their parent company in developing countries without extra external charges, encourage overseas affiliates to modify procedures in order to reflect local ecological conditions and share experiences with local authorities, national Governments and international organizations.
23. Large business and industry, including transnational corporations, should consider establishing partnership schemes with small and medium-sized enterprises to help facilitate the exchange of experience in managerial skills, market development and technological know-how, where appropriate, with the assistance of international organizations.
24. Business and industry should establish national councils for sustainable development and help promote entrepreneurship in the formal and informal sectors. The inclusion of women entrepreneurs should be facilitated.
25. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, should increase research and development of environmentally sound technologies and environmental management systems, in collaboration with academia and the scientific/engineering establishments, drawing upon indigenous knowledge, where appropriate.
26. Business and industry, including transnational corporations, should ensure responsible and ethical management of products and processes from the point of view of health, safety and environmental aspects. Towards this end, business and industry should increase self-regulation, guided by appropriate codes, charters and initiatives integrated into all elements of business planning and decision-making, and fostering openness and dialogue with employees and the public.
27. Multilateral and bilateral financial aid institutions should continue to encourage and support small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs engaged in sustainable development activities.
28. United Nations organizations and agencies should improve mechanisms for business and industry inputs, policy and strategy formulation processes, to ensure that environmental aspects are strengthened in foreign investment.
29. International organizations should increase support for research and development on improving the technological and managerial requirements for sustainable development, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries.
Means of implementation
Financing and cost evaluation
30. The activities included under this programme area are mostly changes in the orientation of existing activities and additional costs are not expected to be significant. The cost of activities by Governments and international organizations are already included in other programme areas.
1 See A/CONF.151/PC/125. [return]
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