World Business Council for Sustainable Development

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World Business Council for Sustainable Development
WBCSD logo 75 dpi for web.png
Founded1992 [1]
Founder Stephan Schmidheiny
Focus Sustainable Development
Area served
Key people
Sunny Verghese (Chairman) [2] Peter Bakker (CEO & President)

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led organization of over 200 international companies. [3] The Council is also connected to 60 national and regional business councils and partner organizations. [4]


Its origins date back to the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992, [1] when Stephan Schmidheiny, a Swiss business entrepreneur, was appointed chief adviser for business and industry to the secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). [5] He created a forum called "Business Council for Sustainable Development", which went on to become Changing Course, a book that coined the concept of eco-efficiency. [6]

Earth Summit international conferens in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, the Rio Summit, the Rio Conference, and the Earth Summit, was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June in 1992.

Stephan Ernst Schmidheiny is a Swiss entrepreneur, philanthropist and advocate of sustainable development. In 2017, his net worth was estimated by Forbes to be $3 billion.

Over the years, as countries and regions around the world began to develop, it slowly became evident that industrialization and economic growth come hand in hand with environmental degradation. Eco-Efficiency has been proposed as one of the main tools to promote a transformation from unsustainable development to one of sustainable development. It is based on the concept of creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution. “It is measured as the ratio between the (added) value of what has been produced and the (added) environment impacts of the product or service .” The term was coined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in its 1992 publication “Changing Course,” and at the 1992 Earth Summit, eco-efficiency was endorsed as a new business concept and means for companies to implement Agenda 21 in the private sector. Ergo the term has become synonymous with a management philosophy geared towards sustainability, combining ecological and economic efficiency.

The WBCSD was created in 1995 as a merger of the Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Industry Council for the Environment [7] and is based at the Maison de la paix in Geneva, Switzerland, [8] with offices in New York and New Delhi.

Maison de la paix

The Maison de la paix is a building owned by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. The building was designed by Eric Ott of Neuchâtel's IPAS firm. It serves as the headquarters for the Graduate Institute and houses the three Geneva Centres, which comprise the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). It is the main element of the Campus de la paix.

Geneva Large city in Switzerland

Geneva is the second-most populous city in Switzerland and the most populous city of Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Situated where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

Switzerland Federal republic in Central Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a sovereign state situated in the confluence of western, central, and southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities seated in Bern. Switzerland is a landlocked country bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. It is geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi), and land area of 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are located, among them the two global cities and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.


The Council works on a variety of issues related to sustainable development. It works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the transformation of six economic systems. These are circular economy, [9] Cities and Mobility, [10] Climate and Energy, [11] Food, Land and Water, [12] People [13] and Redefining Value. [14] Each system transformation is set up as a WBCSD Program with a number of supplementary Projects. [15]

Sustainable Development Goals set of 17 global development goals defined by the United Nations for the year 2030

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The SDGs are part of Resolution 70/1 of the United Nations General Assembly, the 2030 Agenda.

Circular economy regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage, are minimised

A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a close-loop system, minimising the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions. The circular economy aims to keep products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, thus improving the productivity of these resources. All 'waste' should become 'food' for another process: either a by-product or recovered resource for another industrial process, or as regenerative resources for nature, e.g. compost. This regenerative approach is in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a 'take, make, dispose' model of production.

Impact and influence

A 2003 World Bank/IFC commissioned study identified the WBCSD as one of the "most influential forums" for companies on corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues. [16] A 2004 Globescan survey found the WBCSD as the second most effective SD research organization. [17] The 2006 survey by the same company reports that 54% of all surveyed experts believe the WBCSD will play a "major role" in advancing sustainable development. Only the European Union received higher approval (69%). [18]

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.

International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is an international financial institution that offers investment, advisory, and asset-management services to encourage private-sector development in less developed countries. The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States. It was established in 1956, as the private-sector arm of the World Bank Group, to advance economic development by investing in for-profit and commercial projects for poverty reduction and promoting development. The IFC's stated aim is to create opportunities for people to escape poverty and achieve better living standards by mobilizing financial resources for private enterprise, promoting accessible and competitive markets, supporting businesses and other private-sector entities, and creating jobs and delivering necessary services to those who are poverty stricken or otherwise vulnerable.

In the 2007's Ethisphere Institute list of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics, WBCSD President Bjoern Stigson has been ranked 9th, which made him the 2nd most influential NGO leader. [19]

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Membership of the WBCSD is by invitation of the Executive Committee to companies committed to sustainable development. Among its over 180 members [20] are well-known companies such as DuPont, 3M, Nestlé, BP, Danone and Royal Dutch Shell. WBCSD provides its members with the value, impact and voice to navigate unprecedented global changes and allows them to prosper from transforming their operations. By joining the WBCSD, member companies benefit from insights into the latest knowledge on sustainability, sustainability tools, peer collaboration across the value chain, participation in policy development and a chance to profile their sustainability work. [20]

Member companies pledge their support and contribution to the WBCSD by making available their knowledge and experience, and appropriate human resources. They are asked to publicly report on their environmental performance and to aspire to widen their reporting to cover all three pillars of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental.

A key element is the personal commitment of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), acting as Council Members. They are influential advocates for the WBCSD’s policy positions and they co-chair the working groups. They also organize support for the WBCSD’s work program and ensure the adoption of sustainable management practices within their companies.


Forética claims to be global network of Spanish speaking businesses and professionals whose mission is to promote an ethical management and corporate social responsibility by the establishment of a National standard in Spain known as SGE-21, (sistema de gestación ética para siglo 21) which is also Annex 1 to ISO 26000 and supported by CSR Europe [21] Membership is said to around 400 and includes companies of all sizes and sectors, as well as individual specialists, professionals and academics and it was incorporated into WBCSD on 2 September 2014 [22]


The WBCSD is a member-led organization governed by a Council composed of the Council Members of its member companies. The Council elects the Executive Committee, including the Chairman and four Vice Chairmen. Past chairmen include:

Geographic balance

Most of WBCSD's member companies are headquartered in Europe (47%). 22% member companies are headquartered in Asia, 22% in North America and 5% in Latin America. The geographically least represented regions are Africa, Australasia and the Middle East with 1% each. [20]


According to Greenpeace the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is among the key players responsible for holding the world societies from tackling the climate change and energy management challenges for the past 20 years. The WBCSD Executive Committee was dominated by the largest nonrenewable energy and carbon-intensive companies in the world at least until 2011. According to Greenpeace the WBCSD executive committee has been a ‘Who’s Who’ of the world’s largest carbon-intensive companies. [23]

The Sierra Club has collaborated with the World Business Council on a number of initiatives, as well as inviting its representatives to speak at Sierra Club events. [24] [25] The Environmental Defense Fund recommends the World Business Council's auditing methods to companies seeking to reduce greenhouse emissions, [26] and the Natural Resources Defense Council has drawn upon WBCSD guidelines in drawing up their own guidelines for determining biofuels sustainability. [27] The WBCSC's Vision 2020 report was highlighted by The Guardian as "the largest concerted corporate sustainability action plan to date – include reversing the damage done to ecosystems, addressing rising greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring societies move to sustainable agriculture." [28]

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