Our view of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development annual council meeting

There was a buzz among delegates to this month’s World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) annual council meeting and the topic was resilience, planetary boundaries, and the urgent actions businesses must take now to set the world on a more likely path towards a sustainable future.

Each year the approximately 200 global CEO’s who make up the WBCSD Council meet to review and plan the activities of the organisation. The Council meetings this year were in Seoul, South Korea, a fitting location given Korea’s attention to green growth. Korea is hosting the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), its own Green Technology Centre (GTC), a range of international sustainability meetings in coming years (i.e. the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 11th Conference of Parties in 2014 and the 8th World Water Forum in 2015) and there are Korean nationals at the helm of both the UN and the World Bank. This green growth focus was also reflected in comments made to the assembled delegates by the Korean Prime Minister, the Mayor of Seoul, and numerous senior Korean business and policy leaders at the WBCSD meetings.

In the weeks before the UN FCCC Climate Summit in Doha (COP 18) UN Secretary-General H.E. Ban Ki-Moon spoke to the delegates, over 400 senior sustainability executives from member companies, sharing that sustainability is his “top priority”. Both at, and since Rio+20 it has become increasingly clear that collaboration with business is essential to “spur a revolution in sustainability,” he continued. South Korean Prime Minister H.E. Kim Hwang-sik, echoed his sentiments, underlining that “green growth is no longer a choice, but is the only path” to a sustainable future.

The Council’s Vision 2050 provided a starting point for many of the discussions at the meeting. The Council is now working with its business members and  a broad range of external stakeholders on ‘refreshing’ the Vision 2050, to make more explicit the links between the Vision and science-based planetary limits on indicators like climate change, biodiversity loss, global freshwater usage, ocean acidification and other essential earth systems.

WBCSD’s Changing Pace work tied together the 2050 Vision with recommendations to regional, national, and international policymakers on how to best enable movement towards the 2050 sustainable vision. With the ‘refresh’ now in the works however, the focus has shifted back onto businesses and the actions they can and must take before 2020 to show leadership in supporting this transformation.

Keep an eye out for more to come from WBCSD, including at the Sustainable Innovation Forum at COP18 in Doha. Under new President Peter Bakker’s leadership, the Council is becoming more action-oriented, working more closely with scientific communities, and working hard to align its activities across its numerous programme areas with the pathways to a sustainable world as outlined in the 2050 Vision. Hopefully these developments can spur broader action to support us all in these “turbulent teens.”

Geoff Lane
Email: Geoff Lane
Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 4378

Gary Sharkey
Email: Gary Sharkey
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7213 4658