Newly elected Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed took Rio+20 as an opportunity to announce that by 2017, the Maldives will become the only country to be a marine reserve. The Maldives is well known for its golden sands, stunning marine life and clear blue skies; a true paradise. It is one of the last places in the world you would expect major political unrest. However through January and February in 2012, there were riots on the capital island Malé. The riots led to the resignation of President of Mohamed Nasheed (allegedly at gunpoint) and the induction of a new president Mohammed Waheed. However riots have continued. The announcement by Waheed that the Maldives will become full marine reserve has led to complaints that he has
done this as a distraction from the political issues the Maldives face.
While this may be engineered as a distraction, I welcome the announcement. It will make the Maldives the single largest marine reserve in the world, creating a policy that will only allow eco-friendly and sustainable fishing, protecting a very delicate and valuable ecosystem. This would prevent destructive fishing methods such as purse-seining. Due to the bad press that the Maldives has been receiving surrounding these riots, this news will help to get the tourism industry back on its feet, which is essential as the nation is heavily reliant on tourism as a main source of income.
We would love to see other countries take similar steps towards protecting their valuable marine ecosystems, including the UK. The Marine Conservation Society is currently pushing for 127 carefully selected sites to become Marine Conservation Zones (MPZ) in UK seas, which would allow marine habitats to regenerate after damage due to anthropogenic activities such as destructive fishing methods.
So whether this is a political distraction or not, I believe that this is a great step in securing a future for tourism and sustainable fishing within the Maldives, helping to secure jobs and incomes for the local population.
If you have any opinions or comments on this subject, we would love to hear from you.
With thousands of business and industrial CEOs descending on the Rio+20 conference, we believe that this is a great opportunity to raise awareness to the importance of sustainability within business and industry. When comparing the thousands of businesses that are attending Rio+20, to the 50 or so businesses that attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, it shows how much attitude in business has changed to sustainability.
So how can Rio+20 encourage business leaders to improve their focus on sustainability? We believe it must be made clear at Rio+20 that whilst businesses should be improving their own sustainability, they should also be making themselves into role models in sustainability to smaller businesses, customers and stakeholders. Businesses should be following the example set by companies such as M&S and their ‘Plan A’ initiative. GBM attended Marks & Spencer’s ‘Plan A’ Stakeholder Event yesterday and heard of substantial progress in lessening their environmental impacts. More initiatives focusing on improving the social and economic conditions of their supply chain are currently underway, such as their Living Wage programme, which is aimed at increasing the pay and conditions in the factories that they use. On top of this they are engaging customers to join in with their push for improved sustainability through Shwopping. We at GBM would love to see M&S become a leader and encourage the retail sector to follow in their footsteps, through mentoring smaller businesses on how to improve their own sustainability.
It has been discussed that some businesses will be pushing for policies to be produced that will improve environmental quality and social benefits from economic growth at Rio+20. Policies like this will not only vastly improve sustainability within business, it will also pave the way for growth in the renewable energy market, the production of greener products, services and initiatives, as well as helping to create more jobs. We believe that policies regulating sustainability within business are severely lacking, with incentives for businesses to become sustainable mainly based on public pressure.
It will be interesting to see how the next Rio Summit in 20-30 years times differs from Rio+20. Will Rio+20 have set the sustainability world in motion, allowing the next summit to focus on improving on sustainable innovations? Or will Rio+20 fail to make an impact and the next summit be another attempt to kickstart the sustainability movement? We at GBM would like to see even more businesses attending; with more there to drive governments to introduce stricter regulations and legislations on sustainability. We would like to see more market leaders like M&S attending the conferences, steering business sustainability in the right direction.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Rio+20 summit, hopefully it will lead to the development of much needed governmental policies regulating the impact businesses have on the environment and society, paving the way for a more sustainable future within business.