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It’s been a busy few days here in Rio during the first week of activity leading up to Rio+20. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to travel here, Rio is everything you would expect—vibrant culture, beautiful scenery and near-perfect weather each day in the mid-70s. With so many global leaders committed to sustainability in one place, there’s a buzz in the air that Rio+20 will mark a significant step forward for governments and the private sector working together to address climate change. Our participation in these activities is part of Microsoft’s belief that as a leading IT provider we must continue to engage in public-private partnerships to work together with others on finding solutions for climate change.
I’ve had the opportunity to chat with several people attending Rio+20 events, and one of the more interesting themes discussed is about how to ensure that our values are reflected in governmental and business balance sheets so that human well-being and sustainable development are seen as the prevailing measure of success rather than only short-term financial returns. This needs to start with placing a higher value on environmental externalities, beginning with carbon, but also water, waste and beyond. Collaboration among business and government leaders is essential to driving this type of change. The government of Bhutan, which already has a “Gross National Happiness Index” that measures quality of life and social progress, will be hosting a Gross National Happiness Summit here at Rio+20 where their model will be discussed in greater detail. The summit should make for an interesting event and one that we look forward to following.
Microsoft is currently co-sponsoring an exhibition space with the United National Environment Program (UNEP), one of our key partners in environmental sustainability. Microsoft’s booth at the UNEP Pavilion is focused on three primary areas where technology can accelerate progress on key societal challenges -- Environment, Cities, Education & Skills. The Cities pillar will include a demo of Super WiFi, which is an emerging family of wireless technologies that can deliver broadband-grade voice, data and video applications in emergency situations. In developing regions, where connectivity over antiquated infrastructure or non-existent infrastructure is the primary challenge, Super Wi-Fi can help governments deliver broadband and its commensurate benefits across education, health care and overall economic development
The UNEP Pavilion at Rio+20 opened on Tuesday and will remain open through June 23. The Pavilion is located in the exhibition center in the Athlete’s Park (across from Rio Centro, the location for the heads of state summit next week). We certainly encourage anyone here at Rio to stop by the booth and say hello.
Representatives at Microsoft will continue to play an active part at Rio over the next week. The UN Global Compact Corporate Sustainability Forum kicked off on Friday and goes through Monday. Rob Bernard and I will both speak at sessions at the sustainability forum on Microsoft’s recent commitment to carbon neutrality and the creation of an internal carbon fee. On June 19 Orlando Ayala, Microsoft’s chairman of emerging markets, will participate in an event co-organized by the International Telecommunication Union and the Brazilian Ministry of Communication on the role of broadband and information and communications technology for creating smart, inclusive and sustainable societies.
Watch this blog & twitter feed in the coming days for additional updates from on the ground at Rio+20, including what we have to say at the Corporate Sustainability Forum.