Business and Sustainable Development Global

For the business community, sustainability is more than mere window-dressing. By adopting sustainable practices, companies can gain competitive edge, increase their market share, and boost shareholder value. This is the view of BSDGlobal which was published in 2002 as a general guide to the private sector; its content is foundational and continues to be relevant. This site explains the strategies and tools that companies can use to translate an aspiration for sustainability into practical, effective solutions. Case studies from around the world are provided.

The site's six sections cover:
  • Key issues: briefings on specific sustainable development topics from a business perspective
  • Strategies and tools: how to incorporate the principle of sustainability into everyday business activities, illustrated by real-life examples
  • Markets: business opportunities arising from sustainable development
  • Banking and investment: spotlight on how sustainable development is being approached by the financial services industry
  • Working with NGOs: how businesses are forging working partnerships with lobby groups
  • Training opportunities: how universities and professional training providers can help industry leaders incorporate sustainability into their business strategies

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

The WBCSD was founded on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to ensure the business voice was heard at the forum. It was created by Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Stephan Schmidheiny who believed that business had an inescapable role to play in sustainable development: at the same time as making significant contributions to the creation of a sustainable society, it is in the interest of business, and its bottom line, to do so.
Walk into the board room of a typical Fortune Global 500 company today and the talk will be about today’s challenges. In an environment that rewards short-term gains, immediate concerns understandably dominate management’s time and attention. Many companies with relatively long business horizons are still effectively looking at their watches rather than their calendars.

So what would happen if the people in those board rooms asked themselves this simple question: What will the world look like in 2050?

That’s exactly what 29 major global corporations did in a recent project by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This ambitious, leading-edge report maps out the transformative changes that will be necessary to allow the projected 9 billion inhabitants of our planet to be living well at mid-century.

The result of extensive dialogues involving 200 companies spanning 20 countries, Vision 2050 has at its core the attributes of successful business planning: understand your current situation, identify the obstacles to success, and create a pathway to overcome those obstacles. The conclusion of this analysis is the need for a fundamental transformation of the way the world produces and consumes everything from energy to agricultural products. And in that shift, Vision 2050 identifies unprecedented opportunities for business – at least those that understand they can no longer operate in business-as-usual, autopilot mode.

Opportunities range from developing and maintaining low-carbon, zero-waste cities, to improving and managing biocapacity, ecosystems, lifestyles and livelihoods. In today’s dollars, the market opportunities created by adapting to the new global reality for sustainable living are somewhere between $3-$10 trillion USD per year in 2050.
Vision 2050 is not only about economics, development and sustainability challenges for business. It suggests governments and civil society must create a different view of the future, one where, “economic growth has been decoupled from ecosystem destruction and material consumption and re-coupled with sustainable economic development and societal well-being.”

With 9 billion people on the planet competing for a limited supply of natural resources, the definition of “living well” will also have to shift. Instead of a utopian dream, living well in 2050 means that all people have access to and the ability to afford education, healthcare, mobility, the basics of food, water, energy and shelter, and consumer goods. It also means living within the limits of the planet itself.

Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer. Vision 2050 asks those questions and offers a way to help businesses understand the pathways they will need to succeed. The question of where we will be in 2050 is well worth asking, for the rewards to those who get the answers right is unprecedented.

The WBCSD’s cornerstone Vision 2050 report calls for a new agenda for business laying out a pathway to a world in which nine billion people can live well, and within the planet’s resources, by mid-century. The report is a consensus piece that was compiled by 29 leading global companies from 14 industries and is the result of an 18 month long combined effort between CEOs and experts, and dialogues with more than 200 companies and external stakeholders in some 20 countries.
The report features a set of agreed must haves. They represent vital developments that the report’s stakeholders hope organizations will consider putting in place within the next decade, to help ensure a steady course towards global sustainability is set. Ultimately, they are intended to provide a springboard for dialogue and debate.
Must haves include:
  • Incorporating the costs of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water, into the structure of the marketplace;
  • Doubling agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used;
  • Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests;
  • Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems;
  • Improved demand-side energy efficiency, and providing universal access to low-carbon mobility.

Vision 2050, with its best-case scenario for sustainability and pathways for reaching it, is a tool for thought leadership and a platform for beginning the dialogue that must take place to navigate the challenging years to come.

Vision 2050 The new agenda for business