WBCSD inspires a low-carbon culture
In a time when “green” no longer represents a political or emotional state-of-mind but a way of living, global lifestyle changes must be underway. Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is heading the movement, calling on business forces from across the globe to bring “green” into the mainstream economy.
The global association of nearly 200 companies is led by CEOs of international powerhouses, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Royal Dutch Shell, and DuPont. As international climate change negotiations reach a climax at the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference this December, the WBCSD will hold a “Business Day” to facilitate and promote the business voice at the negotiation.
Following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, WBCSD (then BCSD) founder Stephen Schmidheiny challenged his then 48 colleagues to brainstorm a buzzword to embody the dialogue between business and energy sustainability. The contest resulted in “eco-efficiency” – or creating more value with less impact – which is both indicative of the Council’s purpose and fundamental to its practice today.
Headed by business mogul Björn Stigson, the WBCSD serves as a platform for companies to explore trends, exchange ideas and evoke lifestyle and policy changes. It overlaps business and sustainability agendas to demonstrate the private sector’s position in the sustainable future. More simply, the WBCSD is making the business case for sustainable development.
Membership of the WBCSD is based upon invitation by its elected Executive Council, which includes the Chairman (Jorma Ollila, Chairman of both Shell and Nokia) and three Vice-Chairmen. While the Executive Council meets three times a year, the entire Council attends an annual forum to present viewpoints and raise questions surrounding sustainable development.
If interested in becoming a member, companies are encouraged to make known their support of the WBCSD and their experience in the global climate conversation.
The WBCSD Council and Sector projects stretch across a number of environmental issues: water; energy efficiency in buildings; forest products; cement; electricity utilities; the tyre industry; mobility; and mining and minerals. Each project allows members of the Council to take a particular interest and act as a leading business advocate with hopes of a sustainable future.
The WBCSD hones in on four focus areas: Energy and Climate; Development; the Business Perspective; and Ecosystems. Of these, Energy and Climate plays a major role in implementing a low-carbon culture amongst business powers, highlighting the private sector as a provider for and innovator of sustainable future solutions.
The next few years are critical both financially and legally: any delay in action will increase societal costs. Action is needed now to establish a new climate framework that commits countries in both developed and developing countries legally and morally. The world’s eyes are on Copenhagen in December to deliver this framework.
Copenhagen Climate Conference
Building upon its success at the past two Climate Conferences in Bali and Poznan, the WBCSD will host the third “Business Day” in Copenhagen on 11 December. The event will act as a place where business leaders are encouraged to freely discuss and propose the climate solutions that will deliver the emissions reductions over which governments are arguing.
Participants such as Executive Secretary of the UNFCC Yvo de Boer and the future European Environment Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, will front the discussion, challenging businesses to take the lead in sustainable development. Participants will work in moderated interactive sessions, to discuss business development from the present until 2012, 2020 and 2050.
An afternoon panel session will feature some 20 global CEOs from companies dedicated to creating an environmentally sustainable economy. The “Business Day” ultimately seeks to demonstrate the private sector’s commitment to instilling a low-carbon economy. It also aims to deliver concrete messages from business, highlighting its ability, willingness and eagerness to take part in the transition to a more sustainable society.
The WBCSD will present these messages to key government negotiators to illustrate the support and commitment from business to deliver a bold new climate agreement.
WBCSD and the future
According to WBCSD president, Björn Stigson, “Business cannot succeed in societies that fail.” This is precisely why WBCSD encourages a low-carbon culture. If current global population and standard of living growth trends remain, statistics project a corresponding increase in greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures, threatening our ecosystems and ability to live sustainably. The forthcoming years will be central in deciding both the fate of the private sector as well as society itself.
Despite the private sector’s increasing participation, businesses must further play a role in bringing together stakeholders to control the consumer and the economy, especially with a projected 9 billion world population by 2050. With this in mind, the WBCSD has worked with its members to develop a vision for the next 40 years.
WBCSD’s Vision 2050 aligns with its main purpose to create less impact and more value. It identifies the need to limit energy use while maximizing innovation in the next 40 years. The initiative encourages companies to reinvent themselves and their services to prevent a projected 1–4 degree global temperature rise by 2050. In an increasingly consumer-based society, businesses will practice “choice influencing” and “choice editing” to build a sustainable marketplace among stakeholders.
“The aim for the Vision 2050 is for its findings and deliverables to be used as a platform for bringing stakeholders together to discuss the role of business for tomorrow’s constrained but sustainable world,” according to Stigson.
Vision 2050 will be launched in New Delhi, early February.
Article by Kelsey Garvey