Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
PORRITT, CBE, MS
260. Certainly there is a role for the private
sector but should we not be doing more perhaps to create indigenous
private sectors rather than merely transporting our own
(Mr Porritt) Yes, indeed.
261.where the profits are then kept in
the local economy?
(Mr Porritt) Indeed. I am very involved with a small
charity called WaterAid, which you probably know about, which
is funded by the water companies, for what it is worth, here in
the UK. Its remit is specifically to build indigenous expertise
in developing countries to bring these water and sanitation services
to more and more people. It does it in part by having access to
some of the corporate muscle of the companies with whom it works,
but it does it very sensitively within those local communities,
saying, "These assets are communal assets and the management
of them must involve local communities in a very different way
from how we might think of it in the UK." Is that the kind
of partnership which will create the delivery of sustainable water
services for the millions of people in the Third World? If you
ask me, the answer is yes, indisputably, but a critical role in
that is the NGO which creates the trust with the local communities
to make these solutions really work.
262. I know we are coming towards the end of
what I think has been a really interesting session but I wanted
to pick you up on what you said in the last exchange. Did you
refer to the London Principles?
(Mr Porritt) Yes, they are going under the name of
the London Principles.
263. Could you tell the Committee a little about
(Mr Porritt) I think so. This is essentially a DEFRA
initiative, working together with the Corporation of London and
the Royal Institute of International Affairs, to develop a set
of guidelines or principles which will be signed up to by global
financial service companies basicallybig banks, big insurance
companies, others of that kindwhich would voluntarily constrain
the ways in which they bring their investment power to bear in
developing countries. So what are the principles they should work
to as they bring their influence into these countries.
264. That is a good example of how a department
and yourselves now are trying to bring sustainable development
into the mainstream of their thinking.
(Mr Porritt) Very much so. The financial services
sector is about as mainstream as you can get and their role is
just enormous. To be able to influence their behaviour is crucial.
It is ambitious, because you can imagine all the things they start
saying about how to deploy capital in developing countries, but
it is the equivalent, if you like, of Kofi Annan's global compact
for the financial services sector seeking to bring some of these
voluntary principles to bear on the activities of a very large
265. From your perspective, do you get the impression
that any other departmentsand you talked about the Department
of Health earlier onhave the idea they can use Johannesburg
this year to pitchfork (perhaps that is not the right word) sustainable
development but get sustainable development more mainstream in
(Mr Porritt) I am not sufficiently up on the other
four initiatives, I am afraid, to answer that. It has just been
pointed out that the London Principles is not a DEFRA initiative
but Treasury and DTI.
266. Are these published yet?
(Mr Porritt) They are in development.
267. So they are not yet finalised.
(Mr Porritt) They are publicly available but they
have not been signed off yet.
268. I think it is really important that we
end our session in an up-beat mode about what can be done and
to have some heart and hope about the direction we are going in.
Can you say how important you think it is that we should not just
say but we should do as we mean and do as we say, and can you
tell us what scope there is within different departments to put
that into action? I am looking, for example, at the example we
had in the last few days whereby, as I understand it at least,
there has been a question mark over whether Brazilian timber which
has been brought into the country has been legally or illegally
logged. How much do you think that Government, right the way across
the joined-up agenda, should make sure it is looking at being
100 per cent in the way all these difficult issues are interpreted
and acted upon?
(Mr Porritt) I think it is absolutely fundamental.
The pre-condition for Government to act in an advisory role, either
to the general public or the private sector, and exhort both individuals
and companies to behave in more socially and responsible ways,
is that it does it itself in every aspect of its behaviour. We
are looking very carefully, as indeed this Committee has, at the
whole area of procurement. How can it use procurement to advance
this integrated approach to meeting people's needs. I would like
us to look much more carefully at investments in the built environment.
I am looking at the new build programme for hospitals and schools
and I am thinking, "How much of that flow of money, those
billions and billions of pounds, is actually going to come up
to any kind of sensible sustainability standard on things like
energy, waste, raw materials, impact on local communities?"
To what extent are we going to have exemplars of really serious
sustainable construction coming out of two of the biggest capital
investment programmes this country has ever seen. I am asking
the question rhetorically because I think you know as well as
I do that the answer is not a great deal.
Joan Walley: I think that brings us back to
the very heart of the debate which is going on nationally about
private finance and how we have environmental issues at the heart
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, Jonathon.
We are delighted your first appearance before a Select Committee
was in front of ours because we do share a similar agenda and
can help each other along that path. Thank you very much.