Moving Beyond the Corporate Vision of Sustainability

by Rajesh Makwana

In light of ongoing global negotiations on pressing environmental issues, it’s time for efforts to curtail the excessive influence of multinational corporations over public policy to be strengthened and scaled up at all levels – especially at the United Nations.

The corporate capture of policymaking has dire implications for how we achieve sustainable development in the 21st century, and it must be strongly opposed in the coming years as deliberations on climate change and sustainable development reach important conclusions. Private sector influence over politics at the national level is already widely recognised, but the extent to which powerful industries are able to influence global negotiations on some of the world’s most pressing problems is far less reported by the media or discussed in the public sphere.

A prominent example of this was the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012, which was dominated by the presence of multinational corporations whose ‘green economy’ proposals starkly clashed with the more urgent and radical perspectives from indigenous communities, civil society organisations and environmental groups. The outcome was a watered-down vision for sustainable development, and the conference was widely condemned by civil society as a failure. Nonetheless, the pro-market approach to resolving the global environmental crisis has shaped the mainstream discourse on the green economy ever since, even at the United Nations (UN).

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