Pierre Calame: Speech at Saint-Gobain meeting on 2 December 2015
On behalf of the China-Europa Forum let me first thank the Saint-Gobain company and the Enterprises for the Environment (EPE) network for organising this meeting. They have actively and effectively put COP21 to use for further developing relations between Chinese and European companies.
Saint-Gobain has 350 years of history, Schneider 180, Vanke 30, and the China-Europa Forum just 10. As pointed out, however, by Michel Rocard, the former Prime Minister of France, yesterday at the meeting at Le Bourget, the goal that we pursue with the Forum is older than all these venerable companies and will survive all. It is to build sustainable peace and for that a comprehensive dialogue between the societies, involving all stakeholders, is essential.
Companies are of course called on to play an important role in this dialogue. We must remember, however, that economic relations are not sufficient. In the mid-19th century what is called the "first globalisation" began, leading to internationalisation of markets and economic actors, but the First World War put an abrupt end to this dynamic. This shows that the interdependence of economies is not a guarantee of sustainable peace. All the contrary, it can lead to an exacerbation of competition and on to war. A fortiori when the fight for control of natural resources is fiercer.
How can a sustainable peace be built? By ensuring that our societies have a clear awareness of their common destiny. They cannot count on it through history, because history is full of resentments. What unites us are the common challenges in Europe and China, challenges our forum has clearly identified as early as 2007: An ethical crisis that should lead us to understand that mutual accountability is at the heart of ethics in the 21st century; a revolution in governance because, as seen with COP21, our concept of management of interdependencies has been entirely overtaken by new challenges; a new economic model.
Facing these challenges, large enterprises are in the frontline. On their shoulders is a burden too heavy for them because the states are themselves failing to cooperate on common challenges. They rely on the market and large companies to achieve this, which forces large companies to go beyond their normal skills to promote international agreements protecting the climate and to focus their efforts on the development of sustainable global supply chains.
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