Fair ideas conference: sharing solutions for a sustainable planet

Date: 16-17 June 2012
Fair ideas logo

Fair ideas was a major conference jointly hosted by the IIED and Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC) in Rio de Janeiro on 16-17 June 2012. It opened up a space for researchers and practitioners working for a greener, fairer world to add important knowledge, experience and momentum to the official summit.

Highlights from the two-day event

Nearly 1000 people came to the Fair Ideas conference to debate topics in four broad themes: business models for sustainability, urbanisation that improves lives, transforming economic systems for people and planet, and shaping sustainable development goals.

Key messages and recommendations from the conference are available and the outcomes of the conference’s 40+ sessions were compiled into a single summary report.


In 1992, the original Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro ignited the search for solutions for a sustainable planet. Twenty years later, the world has changed. Economic power has shifted, corporate influence has grown and political will has faded. There is a real need to take stock of what we have learnt and to examine how this can be most usefully applied to new contexts.

At IIED we believe there are two key imperatives:

  1. to reduce global resource consumption in ways that include the world’s poor majority;
  2. to strengthen local accountability and agency, recognising that better livelihoods and environments critically depend on effective local governance and organisations.

Trade-offs and ‘win-wins’ in addressing these local and global priorities coherently are most often shaped through effective national level policy and practice.

Against this backdrop and over two days, Fair Ideas addressed four broad themes:

  1. Shaping Sustainable Development Goals pointed to practical ways in which the goals could work for specific countries and sectors.
  2. Urbanisation that improves lives identified examples of good practice and shared ideas for promoting wider change.
  3. Business models for sustainability highlighted examples that break the mould from a range of sectors, which can be replicated and learnt from.
  4. Transforming economic systems for people and planet showcased experiences in transforming systems to both reduce ecological footprints and more equitably distribute benefits.

Fair ideas provided equal space for practitioners, policymakers, activists, business representatives and researchers on what it will take to achieve significant change.

The two-day event took place between the final preparatory negotiations and the summit itself. We have taken its key conclusions into the summit itself, and are continuing follow-up discussions there.

Around 20 organisations committed to supporting sessions at Fair ideas, including a number from Brazil who led in organising sessions in Portuguese, addressing issues which are of particular relevance to the country. A full list of partners can be seen in the carousel on the right.


Fair ideas highlights: Sharing solutions for a sustainable planet (2012) a summary report from the conference

A three-point action plan (2012) Special edition briefing before the conference

Fair Ideas: Sharing solutions for a sustainable planet (2012) Event brochure

Fair Ideas conference programme 16/17th June (2012) Event material

Fair Ideas: Speakers notes (2012) Event material

Fair Ideas: Chair notes (2012) Event material

Fair Ideas: Session leader notes (2012) Event material

Better lives, smaller footprints: how the sustainable development goals can help (2012) IIED side event at Rio +20: Agenda and panellists


  • Ida Auken, Minister of the Environment, Denmark
  • Christian Friis Bach, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark
  • Eduardo Braga, Senator and leader of the Senate, Brazil
  • Lidia Brito, Head of the Science Policy Division Unesco
  • Sandy Cairncross, Professor of Environmental Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
  • Camilo Capiberibe, Governor of Amapá State, Brazil
  • Édison Carlos, President Instituto Trata Brasil
  • René Castro, Minister of Environment, Costa Rica
  • Sue Edwards, Director Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia
  • Fabio Feldmann, Executive Secretary, Paulista Forum on Global Climate Change and Biodiversity, Brazil
  • Falguni Guharay,  Coordinator Servicio de informacion Mesoamericano sobre agricultura sostenible, India
  • Karen Hamilton, Vice President Unilever, UK
  • Ashok Khosla, President Development Alternatives, India
  • Jan McAlpine, Director, UN Division on Forests, and head of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, USA
  • Bihunirwa Medius, Head of the Farmer Enterprise Development Unit, Uganda
  • Andrew Mushita, Director Community Technology Development Trust, Zimbabwe
  • Sara Namirembe, Research Analyst World Agroforestry Centre
  • Paulo Petersen, Director Assessoria e Servicos a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa, Brazil
  • Kate Raworth, Senior Researcher Oxfam, UK
  • Johan Rockström, Director Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden
  • Judith Rodin, President Rockefeller Foundation, USA
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, South Africa
  • Achim Steiner, Executive Director UN Environment Programme
  • Pavan Sukhdev, McCluskey Fellowship Yale University, USA
  • Izabella Teixeira, Minister of the Environment, Brazil
  • Kevin Urama, Executive Director African Technology Policy Studies Network, Kenya
  • Virgilio Viana, CEO Fundação Amazonas Sustentável, Brazil

Hosted by the PUC, Fair ideas took place within a range of meeting spaces that included an auditorium that seats up to 700 people, 2 lecture theatres which hold up to 150 people each, and a range of fully-equipped classrooms with capacities of between 15 and 100.

The auditorium sessions provided the broad framing for each of the Fair ideas themes, and included presentations by high-level speakers from across the world.

All recordings are gathered in this playlist.


We are grateful for the financial support provided to this event by the PUC; session lead organisations; and IIED’s core donors: Danida (Denmark), DFID (UK), Irish Aid and Sida (Sweden).