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Countries, companies, and customers are increasingly concerned with sustainability. What is unclear from a business perspective, however, is how much cost can be tolerated for sustainability efforts and what markets’ sensitivities are to product prices? The results of a large-scale study that I undertook with colleagues (article) indicate that product-market performance can be achieved even when costs/prices increase by 27 to 72%, and when companies implement sustainability efforts that are 5 to 30% above sustainability efforts of the company’s home country.

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Climate change has become a prominent issue within the past few decades. To stay in tune with global efforts to improve global climate, several nations have committed to the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, a multinational deal made with the United Nations to curb worldwide carbon emissions. According to the New York Times, many "countries and businesses all over the world [have] already made advances based on the agreement," including rich and poor nations alike. The world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China, remains fully "committed in the fight against climate change and to participating in international efforts for a greener world." Brussels and Beijing have been cooperating in order to move forward together with the agreement, and India has pledged its commitment as well.

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Nairobi, Kenya is the scene for the 2016 World Investment Forum and also the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The parallel, and in some cases joint, meetings attract a plethora of intellectual power, decision-making authorities, and other invited and influential parties. A key agenda item across the meetings is investment opportunities based on the newly established Sustainable Development Goals.

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From November 30 to December 11, leaders and negotiators from 195 countries are meeting in Paris to reach a deal on global carbon emissions and rising global temperatures. The meeting is officially known as the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference and the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties, or COP21 for short. The Conference of the Parties is an annual U.N.-supervised global meeting that has taken place since 1995 and is dedicated to reducing the effects of climate change. COP21 is one of the largest conferences organized yet, meeting with the goal of creating the first legally binding global climate agreement. Past climate change agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord, either focused mainly on curbing carbon emissions or introduced measures that did not reach unanimous global approval. The nations meeting in COP21 aim to change this with a new agreement.

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It has been nearly a year since Emma Watson, the United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, gave a revolutionary speech introducing the HeForShe campaign. HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that encourages men and boys around the world to step up and pledge to be advocates for change. Because education is a major determining factor in job positions and opportunities, HeForShe is calling to involve businesses, universities, and governments to help establish equality. HeForShe also encourages advocates to be a part of its IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative that “develops three bold, game-changing commitments to advance and ultimately achieve gender equality for all."

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People around the world are questioning the objectives of China and Saudi Arabia, who are vying for seats this week on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. The members of the General Assembly elect the members to the council’s forty-seven seats. The inquiry of these countries to the council comes on the grounds that the General Assembly is supposed to take into account the contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, while China and Saudi Arabia may be considered to some, two of the most infamous violators of human rights.

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As the United Nations’ Rio +20 Summit came to a close this past week there was a large disappointment in the solutions, or lack of solutions, accomplished. In 1992, when the Summit was first held, there was a sense of hope that a plan could be created to both develop and stabilize the economy while also protect the environment. This year the final document, titled “The Future We Want,” has been seen as weak because it failed to come closer to conclusions on how the world can deal with the connected problems of economy and environment. Rather than focusing on what was unsuccessful, the Summit did create more of an awareness of the issues and put out good ideas on the table. In order to really achieve the future we want, action taken by businesses is necessary.

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Can environmentally conscious consumers convince businesses to develop sustainable practices, or must government regulations force their hand? According to United Nations officials such as Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, governments cannot be responsive enough to quickly alter the negative impacts of human actions on the environment. As government, business, and academic leaders recently met at the CNN Earth’s Frontiers debate in Cancun, Mexico, many people are asking which organizations are best suited to lead the fight against global warming.

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By supporting India for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, President Barack Obama positioned the United States for a long-term political and economic partnership with the emerging Asian nation. While much focus has been put on the political alignment of the United States and India against their rivals in China and Pakistan, there are also great opportunities for business partnerships to emerge. As is often the case, strengthened political ties may lead to strengthened economic ties as well.

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Mark your calendars: United Nations Day is October 24th. The holiday is an annual celebration observed internationally by UN member nations, reaffirming the goals and the values of the organization. Of special interest to those in the international business field is the United Nations Global Compact, a sub-organization that acts as a policy group for companies that are “committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.”