Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is the role and mandate of the WBCSD?
We were set up in 1991 to get business involved in the Rio
Earth Summit and have now grown into the leading advocate
for sustainability in the business community.
We are a coalition of 160 international
companies and campaign to promote the cause of sustainable
development through economic growth, ecological balance
and social progress.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.