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The Rio+20 informal sessions kicked off this week, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. I just arrived in Rio myself this afternoon. It's a beautiful city--right on the water, with lots of mountains around. I'm looking forward to a very busy and productive week.

Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of upcoming WRI events. Check out the details below on what we’ve got going on tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of all WRI events at Rio+20.

Can creating business value and promoting sustainable development go hand in hand? We think so, and so do many leading companies. That’s why we’re excited to present a panel at the Rio+20 conference featuring speakers from Siemens, PepsiCo, and Mars. On June 17, 2012, these companies will reveal successful strategies that benefit the environment, their customers, and their bottom line.

Companies that Combine Profit and Planet

Each company has a compelling story to tell about how environmental initiatives can spur business opportunities and growth:

  • Siemens: Almost half (41 percent) of the company’s 2011 revenue came from products in its environmental portfolio, such as solar technologies and building automation systems.

  • PepsiCo: The company partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to create a market for sunflower oil in Mexico, supporting its transition away from palm oil, which threatens forests, while providing healthy foods and beverages. The initiative will provide a stable income source for roughly 850 farmers and their families. This fits with the company’s “Performance with Purpose” approach which seeks to tie superior financial performance with its commitment to human and environmental sustainability, while “fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.”

As the global summit in Rio approaches, negotiations are still in flux, but some ideas that could advance the global sustainability agenda are gaining momentum.

One such idea is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are emerging as a potentially significant outcome with global policy implications for the post-2015 development agenda. With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire in 2015, the idea is for governments to launch a process in Rio to develop broader SDGs that would complement or succeed them.

The MDGs have had a laudable impact on reducing the proportion of the world’s people living in extreme poverty. But they have also been criticized– fairly – for failing to address some key drivers of poverty. These include environmental issues—such as climate change and resource scarcity—that disproportionately impact the poor and most vulnerable, as well as the inequitable distribution of wealth, income, and opportunity.

Opportunities in China for impact investing are growing, where investors look to create positive social and environmental benefits alongside returns. Impact investors actively choose to put their money into companies that address social and environmental issues through their business models. Tao Zhang, the Chief Operating Officer of New Ventures, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship with local operations in China and five other high growth markets, answers questions on the country’s current investment climate for environmentally-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.

As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.

In the United States, there is a heated debate about how much government should support renewable energy innovation. While you won’t find anyone who says they don’t value ‘innovation’, the U.S. federal investment in energy innovation across both fossil and renewable technology is still anemic, badly trailing China and only about one third of the amount recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That’s unfortunate, because there are compelling reasons to accelerate innovation in the energy sector, and specifically in renewable energy.

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