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Think Globally, Act Locally: the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Seven years ago a major international conference was held in Johannesburg – the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Heads of state, government ministers, civil servants, and representatives from business and Non-Government Organisations flooded into the country to discuss progress on Agenda 21, the roadmap towards integrating economic, environmental and social decision-making adopted 10 years earlier at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

Agenda 21 enshrines a maxim that is essential to any sustainability-related actions: “think globally, act locally”.  This has resonance with the private sector in relation to marketing strategy in a globalised economy: a number of high profile companies have recently run advertising strategies focusing on their global reach and knowledge but simultaneous understanding of local context – Standard Bank and Vodacom being just two examples.

The notion of “think globally, act locally” extends to recognition that the environment is a global common resource, with any detrimental impacts having consequences beyond their point of origin.  An example of this is that greenhouse gases emitted largely by the developed world since industrialisation are causing sea level rise and other changes in the developing world.  In economic, social and environmental terms, therefore, it is important to expand the horizons of the decision-making landscape.  Agenda 21 encourages this.

Psychological studies have shown that the disconnect between individual action and larger consequences is often an obstacle for changing behaviour.  In other words, why should I make an effort to drive less and reduce my carbon emissions when no one else does/the Americans are still driving their gas guzzlers/China and India are rapidly industrialising?  The answer, of course, is that if everyone thinks like this nothing will happen, but if we all do our bit on the local scale, the globe will benefit.  But more than that, we are living in a more morally-conscious world, where there is increasing recognition that we all have a duty to live sustainably.  This extends to the private sector, where businesses are expected to consider the global consequences of their actions.

To find out more about sustainability and your business, please contact the team at Kulima Solutions.

Kulima Solutions is a specialist Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility Consultancy whose principals are:

Katharine Vincent, BA Hons. (Oxford), MREs (University of East Anglia), PhD (University of East Anglia)
Email:  katharine.vincent@gmail.com, Phone: 072 1964525.

Tracy Cull, B. Soc. Sci. Hons (University of Natal, Durban)
Email: tracymcull@gmail.com, Phone: 082 820 6608

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