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What will be the WBCSD’s role at the World Summit on Sustainable Development?
We have been building up to the Summit with a series of initiatives to make the case that the pursuit of sustainable development is good for business and that business is good for sustainable development.

At Johannesburg we shall be holding events every day. They cover such areas as electricity, climate change, cement and transport. We shall also be launching our book Walking the Talk, a blueprint for action including numerous case studies of ways companies can make their operations more sustainable.

In addition, our Young Managers Team – 30 professionals aged 25-35 from member companies – will be active as WBCSD ambassadors and to give a new generation's perspective.

How does the WBCSD define "sustainable development"?
We define sustainable development as forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Given the scale of world poverty today, the challenge of meeting present needs is urgent. But we must look ahead and do our utmost to ensure that what we do today for our ever-growing population does not compromise the environmental, social and human needs of our descendants.

What is the business case for sustainable development?
Pursuing a mission of sustainable development can make our firms more competitive, more resilient to shocks, nimbler in a fast-changing world and more likely to attract and hold customers and the best employees. It can also make them more at ease with regulators, banks, insurers and financial markets.

Sustainable development policies will be profitable, but our rationale is not based solely on financial returns. Companies comprise, are led by, and serve people with vision and values. In the long-term, companies that do not reflect these people's best vision and values in their actions will wither in the marketplace.

What types of partnerships does the WBCSD engage in?
We work with a regional network of more than 30 partner organizations in all five continents, offering a valuable local perspective on the needs and concerns of different economies. These independent Business Councils for Sustainable Development (BCSDs) and partner organizations have a common commitment to providing business leadership for change toward sustainable development in their respective countries and regions.

We also cooperate with more than a dozen UN and independent organizations, such as the IUCN (World Conservation Union) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The WBCSD is committed to the concept of private-public partnerships as an effective way of delivering sustainable services and employment.

Who are the members?
Our member-companies are drawn from more than 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors. They include some of the world's biggest and most influential companies, such as AOL Time Warner, AT&T, Bayer, BP, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and Shell.

We also work with a global network of 30 national and regional business councils and partner organizations involving up to 1,000 business leaders worldwide.

How do companies join the organization? What are the criteria for membership?
We do not have a set of fixed criteria for membership. We invite companies to join if we feel they have a significant contribution to make to the WBCSD's aims and are committed to improving the long-term "sustainability" of their own operations.

How do you think acting sustainably positively affects the bottom line of companies?
The Dow Jones Sustainability Index, reflecting companies seen as leaders in sustainable development, has consistently outperformed conventional market indices.

But the business case for sustainable development is also based on entrepreneurial thinking: it looks to the next point on the business curve, the point at which business can be more competitive by being more sustainability- driven. WBCSD companies intend to be at that point first and to stake it out as their value opportunity.

What is the WBCSD’s position on the Kyoto Protocol?
As a world body, the WBCSD is working continuously to bridge the divide among the industrialized countries over the Kyoto provisions for reducing harmful gases released into the environment. This involves facilitating dialogue between climate negotiators from around the globe and seeking common objectives.

We believe it is important to work towards one global system and make the flexible mechanisms operational within the larger family of nations.

We hear about Corporate Social Responsibility. How do firms put it into practice?
Business is not divorced from the rest of society. How companies behave affects many people, not just shareholders. A company should be a responsible member of the society in which it operates.

That means contributing to sustainable development by working to improve quality of life with employees, their families, the local community and stakeholders up and down the supply chain. It can mean a new kindergarten, a new clinic, health insurance, playgrounds, football pitches, it can mean biodegradable packaging, cleaner fuel for trucks, sortable plastic bottles. It's a huge subject.

How can business help to create sustainable livelihoods for the poor?
We believe that business can be a force for helping to create sustainable livelihoods for the poor and fighting poverty. Demonstrating this is perhaps the best way to counteract ill-informed opposition to free trade.

Our project on Sustainable Livelihoods investigates how companies can extend the benefits of sustainable economic development to a wider cross-section of the poor.




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WBCSD background information

Barbara Dubach

Tel: +41 (22) 839 3128

Geneviève Tremblay

Tel: +41 (22) 839 3108