JONATHAN LASH

President

WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE

INTERVIEW BY MICHAEL O'CALLAGHAN AT THE RIO+10 SUMMIT IN 2002
This is the transcript of a video interview produced and directed by Michael O'Callaghan at the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg, in 2002.
Full transcript (425 words, slightly edited for clarity).
© 2002-2019 Global Vision Foundation.
BACKGROUND
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At the time of this interview, Jonathan Lash was President of the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC. (www.wri.org). Its mission is to move human society to live in ways that protect the Earth's environment and future generations. From 1993 to 1999 he was Co-chair of the U.S. President's Council on Sustainable Development, a group of U.S. government, business, labor, civil rights, and environmental leaders appointed by Clinton to developed visionary recommendations for strategies to promote sustainable development.

Jonathan has served on a variety of international commissions and boards, including the DuPont Biotechnology Advisory Panel; the Tata Energy and Resources Institute (India); the Keidanren Committee on Nature Conservation (Japan); the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development; Generation Investment Management, The VIVA Trust, and the Avina Foundation. He has chaired advisory groups to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Secretary General of the OECD. In December 2007, he was named "one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics" for the year by Ethisphere Magazine, recognising his "commitment to ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility."
How do you feel about voluntary corporate change versus regulatory change?

We're not going to solve problems like global warming purely through voluntary actions by corporations. They simply can't afford to do it because they work in a competitive market. They need multi-lateral frameworks, they need rules. I sat with Phil Watts this morning - the chairman of Shell - and he was being very explicitly to a pair of reporters about the fact that he really needed rules to continue what he was doing.

That said, the voluntary actions that are being taken by corporations now are driving things much more quickly than governments are, and it's an enormous opportunity for those of us in civil society.

Given the kind of data that World Resources Institute and other NGOs have, which clearly show a link between security and sustainability, do you think the American intelligence communities are not doing their job, or are they not being listened to if they are indeed reporting on what the real threats are?

Since I haven't been at the receiving end of intelligence briefings, I can't really answer your question, Michael, but I certainly have seen evidence in public statements that the CIA has begun to pay attention to environment and natural resources as a driver of insecurity. Whether they're re including that in their reports to President Bush I simply don't know. There's not much evidence of it, is there?

Any brief soundbite you want to tell the world?

The thing I've been thinking about, since I'm a sportsfan: I was greatly relieved that the billionaire owners in baseball and the millionaire players of baseball finally agreed that in order to save the game, they had to avoid a strike. That took months of negotiation. I wish that the negotiators here [at the World Summit on Sustainable Development] would remember that they are trying to save the Earth.
What's your view of the lack of progress in the 10 years since the first Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992? And what are the most important issues we need to be thinking about for the coming decade?
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If you think about the big drivers that are affecting people's future - climate change, biodiversity - in reality we haven't done anything yet since Rio to slow them down. Emissions of greenhouse gases have grown sharply since Rio, loss of forests has continued unabated since Rio, loss of species has continued. So the progress, if there's been progress, is more in accommodating to reality. People understand how hard it's going to be, and are developing new approaches to try to make that happen.