Next month, the global business and sustainability world will focus attention on Rio+20. At the same time, BSR is ramping up for our own “Plus 20” event—our 20th BSR conference, from October 23-26 in New York.

BSR was founded the same year as the original Earth Summit. And what a difference two decades makes. 

The World Wide Web was introduced in 1992, and today nearly 2.5 billion people have web access.  Since 1992, China’s GDP per capita has grown 1,500 percent. The number of NGOs around the world has increased by an even greater rate.  Hundreds of millions of people have moved out of poverty, with the Human Development Index improving by 19 percent and global life expectancy by six years. In 1992, very few companies had acknowledged the importance of sustainability, and those that did had only a cursory understanding of the topic. 

But at the same time, the evidence today suggests that change is much too slow.  Atmospheric concentrations of carbon have risen since 1992, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Eighty percent of global energy demand is met by petroleum, natural gas, or coal—up from 1992—with half of the increased energy demand over the past decade coming from coal. And despite significant progress, many of the Millennium Development Goals still remain far out of reach. 

We have this reality in mind as we head into our 20th BSR Conference. While we share a great sense of pride with many others in helping place sustainability squarely on the world’s agenda, we look ahead with an even greater sense of urgency.  As our Conference theme indicates, it’s time to fast forward solutions for a sustainable future. 

This year’s Conference will provide a compelling platform to define what comes next.  Over the next 20 years, we’ll experience an ongoing technology revolution that will redefine the relationship between companies, individuals, and communities. The companies that develop innovative approaches to help an increasingly urban, connected, and global population thrive will win in the marketplace. To do that, every business will need to find creative new ways to make wiser use of natural resources. And there will be countless changes—as the internet introduced in 1992—that we can’t begin to understand today.

None of this will happen unless we make sustainability a core part of the story. Let’s start writing the history of the next twenty years. There’s no better place to do that than at the BSR Conference 2012 in New York. Hope to see you there.