World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Global Warming)

The world business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a global association of businesses focused on market-oriented solutions to sustainable development and is appropriately structured along the lines of a chief executive officer (CEO)-led business. The WBCSD’s mission statement asserts its purpose: "Our mission is to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues." The WBCSD arose from ideas forwarded at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992, where Swiss businessman Stephan Schmidheiny was appointed chief adviser for business and industry to the secretary general of the UNCED. Schmidheiny created a forum called Business Council for Sustainable Development that eventually published the book Changing Course, in which the phrase eco-effi-ciency—doing more with less—was first used. The WBCSD was constituted in its current form when it merged (1995) with the World Industry Council for the Environment.

The WBCSD has approximately 60 national and regional business councils and has its North America office in Washington, D.C. Only companies committed to sustainable development are invited, by the executive council, to join the association.

General Motors, DuPont, 3M, Deutsche Bank, Coca-Cola, Sony, Oracle, BP, and Royal Dutch/Shell are among approximately 200 member companies from 35 countries representing 20 industrial sectors. Members make their knowledge, experience, and some limited human resources available to the WBCSD and are asked to base their business development within the parameters of economic, social, and environmental sustain-ability. Member company CEOs act as executive council members, cochair working groups, and promote the objectives of the WBCSD within their companies.


The council’s objectives are to be a leading business advocate on sustainable development, participate in policy development to create the right framework conditions for business to make an effective contribution to sustainable human progress, develop and promote the business case for sustainable development, demonstrate the business contribution to sustainable development solutions and share leading-edge practices among members, and contribute to a sustainable future for developing nations and nations in transition. To achieve these objectives the WBCSD has four focus areas (FAs): energy and climate, development, the business role, and ecosystems.

The WBCSD initiated its Energy and Climate FA in 1999 by creating and promoting ways for business to prosper while being socially and environmentally conscious within a sustainable development framework that prepares business for the carbon-constrained future necessary for the planet to counter anthropogenic (human-induced) global warming and climate change. This required innovation, education, and dialogue seeks to create an efficient approach to energy sustainability and climate change through changing and adapting policy frameworks, business plans and markets, advancing technologies, and the interaction between business, government, and economies regionally, nationally, and globally. One focus of this initiative was/is the large greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters (United States, China, India, and Russia). The WBCSD interacts with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UNEPs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and also focuses on the development of a post-2012 flexible Kyoto mechanism. Energy and climate became the primary WBCSD FA in 2005.

WBSCDs Facts and Trends to 2050 (2004) and Pathways to 2050 (2005) proposed potential pathways to GHG stabilization and to creating a low GHG economy. Its Policy Directions to 2050: A Business Contribution to the Dialogues on Cooperative Action (2007) promotes these goals and the averting of a climate change catastrophe through the coordinated and sustained actions of governments, businesses, and consumers. The WBCSD’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative joint initiative with the World Resources Institute attempts to standardize all GHG accounting.

The WBCSD contends that stable and sustainable societies cannot and must not tolerate poverty among their citizens and that businesses, economies, governments, and societies must work together to ensure open and fair access to all markets and opportunities. The WBCSD supports this focus through its Sustainable Livelihoods project, which advocates the changes in societal, policy, and business frameworks necessary to achieve this focus while promoting business-led development targeting the long-term alleviation of poverty.

The WBCSD Business Role FA began in 1992 with the publication of the book Changing Course, the basic premise of which was that the only solution to the challenges of environmental deterioration and climate change is the active participation of business. The WBCSD tried to ignite a discussion on the role that business should or might play in any future economic, social, and environmental sustainable society with its 2006 publication of From Challenge to Opportunity: The Role of Business in Tomorrow’s Society. The WBCSD secretariat and its FA Core Team (FACT), composed of 11 member companies led by two cochairs, creates and implements the WBCSD Action Plan seeking to provide platforms for discussion and debate among business leaders, facilitate future thinking on how business might support sustainable development, use the available WBCSD resources more appropriately, and shape the message of the WBCSD to the business world.

Ecosystems became a WBCSD FA in March 2007 and, as a FA, is built on the WBCSD’s Sustaining Ecosystems Initiative created in November 2005 to rally and direct business to address the ecosystem opportunities and challenges outlined in the July 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that the WBCSD partially authored. The goal is to encourage business to address the risks inherent in the accelerating degradation of the ecosystem and the loss of ecosystem services and to adopt mitigation and market-based strategies for enhancing sustainable management and ecosystems use. The WBCSD began addressing these issues by demonstrating how business could integrate these strategies into management systems when the WBCSD and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) jointly produced (1997) two reports on business and biodiversity: A Guide for the Private Sector and A Handbook for Corporate Action. The WBCSD and the IUCN continued to promote the benefits of integrating biodiversity into business after they partnered with the World Conservation Union to host a workshop on the subject in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2004.

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