Mary Robinson, an ex-UN commissioner for human rights who has twice served as a UN climate envoy, used the keynote address of the Sustainability Leaders Forum to reiterate that climate change should be viewed as “climate justice”.

Robinson used her 23-minute speech to praise the work done by corporates to date, but noted that every person and every organisation could do more to respond to the climate crisis.


“This won’t happen without disruption, and disruption comes in many forms,” Robinson said. “This is good and necessary, but we have to see businesses go further. Leaders must speak up for a regulatory framework that … holds them accountable.” 

As noted in edie’s Sustainability Leadership Live Blog, Robinson noted the model of interaction between business, citizens and policy as a “squeeze”. From below, governments are being pressured by citizens groups, local authorities, non-profits and charities. From above, pressure can come from bodies like the UN, or from business, she explains. 

One of the most important messages that Robinson shared was that business, in general, should deliver a lot less greenwash and a lot more “measurable, transparent activity”.

In a pre-event interview with edie, Robinson noted that both businesses and governments should overcome net-zero “hypocrisy” by focusing on delivering decarbonisation across value chains that spanned continents, rather than concentrating on national or operational improvements alone.

Finally, Robinson offered three key steps for sustainability professionals to keep them energised during a decade of deliverance on sustainable climate action:

1) Make the issue of the climate crisis personal 

2) Get angry at those with more responsibility than you as an individual, and take action 

3) Imagine the world we need to be hurrying towards

Watch the speech in full here.

edie staff

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