Rio+20 UN Conference

Rio+20 Side Event on Building Markets for Greener Products

By Bicky Corman

There’s growing demand for products that perform well, have a light environmental footprint, and are produced by people earning fair wages under safe, humane working conditions. That’s a big list of requirements for any given widget. It’s no surprise that purchasers trying to buy greener products have difficulty knowing which products meet those criteria, including navigating the more than 400 eco-labels and standards that exist worldwide.

The U.S. Government has long recognized that it can leverage the enormous power of public procurement by providing a large market for early adopters, nurturing new products and services to a point where they can become commercially viable. As the Nation’s largest energy consumer, it recognized that buying green could save taxpayers money, enhance national security, and spur innovation. During the 90s and the 2000s, it began to uniformly purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, require double-sided printing, and purchase EPEAT registered and Energy Star qualified products.

On June 17th, I had the privilege of participating in a discussion on Building Markets for Greener Products in the Rio +20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, where speakers from governmental and private sectors, academia and international organizations described new partnerships, tools, and commitments to build markets for greener products.

I spoke first, describing a recent U.S. Government initiative under Executive Order 13514 to have 95% of new public procurement actions include energy- and water-efficient, biobased, environmentally preferable, generally safer, and recycled content requirements.

Greg Crosby, from USDA, spoke about the launch of their “LCA Digital Data Commons, a new “one stop shop” built to house credible, high quality, data on the full, life-cycle environmental footprint of commodities and products, to help producers, retailers, and consumers make educated choices.

Private sector representatives underscored with specific examples the importance of understanding consumer demand, as well as understanding a product’s environmental footprint across its full life-cycle, in order to most effectively deliver greener products to the market. Dr. Peter White, from Proctor and Gamble, noted analysis that 10% of consumers will not buy greener products; 15% will buy green, even if it means that they must pay more; but 75% will buy green if it does not require making any trade-offs. Anna Walker, from Levi-Strauss, shared her company’s life-cycle analysis of its 501 jeans that showed the largest impacts occurred in the consumer use phase (e.g. washing and drying). Nonetheless, Levi’s has redesigned its 501jeans so that they take less water and fewer chemicals to manufacture. They also changed the care label to promote line drying.

UNEP’s Fanny Demassieux discussed the “Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) Initiative,” a new international partnership expected to be launched at Rio20 aimed at supporting SPP assistance to developing countries, collaborative research and tool development, and sharing of best practices. Prof. Cassia Ugaya from Brazil, described the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, an international multi-stakeholder collaboration with a mission of bringing science-based life cycle approaches into practice worldwide.

About the author: Bicky Corman is the Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Seizing the Opportunity in Rio

By Scott Fulton

Olá!  A few days ago, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development (a.k.a. “Rio+20”).   I’m excited and humbled to be a part of this milestone event, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first UN Earth Summit.  Rio+20 offers an important opportunity to consider anew the global challenge of sustainable development and to provide guidance and inspiration for the path ahead.  While I’m here in Rio, in addition to attending Rio+20 itself, I’ll be participating in many satellite events designed to make the most of this opportunity.  Just a few examples:

  • On June 16, I participated  in the Rio+20 Colloquium on Environmental Law & Justice, a panel discussion of the Role of Courts in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement over at the Supreme Court;
  • Over the next few days, I will attend the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in Mangaratiba. This meeting of judges, prosecutors and auditors from around the world immediately precedes the Rio+20 Conference.
  • On Thursday, June 21, I will participate in a meeting led by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, “Rio+20, CCICED +20, Sharing the Achievements, Embracing the Future.” This promises to be an interesting opportunity for an exchange of ideas with our colleagues in China.

On June 16, I was also given the opportunity to moderate the Environmental Governance and Social Inclusion program at the U.S. Center in Athletes Park.  It was a successful and lively discussion with an extremely well qualified panel and an engaged audience. Some of the issues we touched on included:

  • Key features of effective systems for environmental governance at the national level, such as access to environmental information, public participation, law reform, and implementation and accountability mechanisms including robust enforcement systems;
  • The critical importance of efforts to engage vulnerable communities to promote social inclusion and environmental justice; and
  • Steps we can take to enhance cooperation, coordination and collaboration on strengthening environmental governance in countries around the world.

I think these concepts are integral to the notion of sustainability. After all, when we talk about Environmental Governance we are talking about the very real building blocks of a governance system that can make all the difference in the world—the difference between the concept of environmental protection expressed as written law and the reality of cleaner air and water, healthier people, and a secure a future where these benefits can be sustained for future generations.

And when we talk about environmental justice we are talking about the kind of social inclusion that allows us to reach an end state where no one’s environmental health is compromised because of his or her race, national origin or income level, and all have equal access both to the environmental decision-making process and to a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

To read more about environmental governance, click here: http://inece.org/resource/foundation/

About the author:  Scott Fulton is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s General Counsel.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Share Your Sustainability Stories for Rio+20

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week I join colleagues from across the US and around the world at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit that set an early course for sustainability across the globe, we are working to shape the next 20 years of sustainable development with the help of governments, businesses, students, non-profits and global citizens.

Our work will be focused on new strategies to reinvest in the health and prosperity of urban communities. Today, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. As that trend continues in the coming years, we will stretch the limits of our transportation systems and energy infrastructure, and be challenged to meet crucial needs like supplying food and clean water, and safely disposing of waste. We’re taking this opportunity at Rio+20 to develop strategies for both improving existing infrastructure and building new, efficient, cutting-edge systems. Innovations in water protection, waste disposal, energy production, construction and transportation present significant opportunities for new technologies, green jobs and savings for families, businesses and communities.

During my time in Rio, I plan to talk about the great work happening in communities across our nation. I will be sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that are implementing new environmental education programs and creating the green jobs of the future, and we’re preparing to unveil videos submitted through the Youth Sustainability Challenge. We want to hear from you as well. Please send us your stories of sustainability this week on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #EPArio so that we can share them with the world.

Even if you can’t be there in person, I hope you will join Rio+20 online. Go to http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ to see and participate in all of the events being hosted by the US government, and be a part of our efforts to build a better, more sustainable and more prosperous future.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.