A challenge and an opportunity in Copenhagen

A challenge and an oppor

Climate Conference in Copenhagen 248.88 (photo credit: )
Climate Conference in Copenhagen 248.88
(photo credit: )
Israel is involved in a dance of ideas, tirelessly moving from one to the other, but never stopping to decide on the next logical move. These ideas may be understood in the context of Israel's conception of itself as either a developed or a developing country. In the first sense, Israel is a democratic society complete with advanced technology, modern business practices, a solid health care system and so forth. On the other hand, it is reluctant to join the likes of other modern nations in their acceptance of and adherence to environmental and social reforms. But the time is now. If Israel wants to make the jump to become a developed country, it must agree to the above reforms and actively work to achieve such results. In light of the UN's Copenhagen Climate Conference which began Monday, Israel is presented with the opportunity to join the likes of Western nations in creating a framework for climate change mitigation. This year's 12-day conference aims to result in an ambitious global climate change agreement that will include all countries . The conference will be attended by thousands and talks will focus on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in developed and developing countries, as well as how to adapt to and finance the impacts of climate change. On the global arena, social and environmental issues are moving forward but the situation here remains vague. At the time of the start of the conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had not yet concluded whether or not he would participate in the UN conference. Additionally, because Israel is considered a "developing" country instead of a "developed" country within the framework of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , it has not made a formal commitment to reducing its carbon emissions. This duality of Israel as a Westernized country and as a developing country seems contradictory considering that it is actively preparing for acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group that brings together governments committed to democracy and improving the global market economy. BARRING ISRAEL'S acceptance into the OECD, however, is the lack of high social and environmental performance by its public and private sectors. Compared with other countries, Israel is proving to be behind. As a participant in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) forum held in Jordan last month, I was impressed to find a high level of cooperation between the Arab private and public sectors. These sectors understand very clearly that collaboration on CSR in the Middle East will improve the competitiveness of the region in general by attracting foreign investments as well as improving national and regional economic performance, a lesson Israel could stand to learn from. Even US President Barack Obama, leader of the largest capitalistic market in the world, has joined the ranks of CSR leaders who are predominantly led by European nation states. Obama's first approved federal budget has been deemed the "New Era of Responsibility," which outlines, among other things, an office for public participation and an office of energy and climate change policy. Both offices are responsible for coordinating government policy on emissions targets and climate change, demonstrating the US's internal and external commitment to their role in the New Era of Responsibility. Both of the above cite the need for increased involvement in corporate social responsibility. According to an Edelman Public Relations 2009 Good Purpose Study, consumers are still spending with companies and brands which have a social purpose, despite the global recession. Furthermore, 83 percent of individuals sampled are willing to change consumption habits if it can help make the world a better place to live. Given this, it is not enough that Israel has a dynamic environment minister, conceptual change must come from the government whose leadership has the power and resources to affect widespread change. It is time that Israel stops dancing and joins the Western world on the environmental and social front. The writer is the CEO of Goodvision, the Israeli CSR consulting firm which he founded in 2002, after several years service in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation.