Sustainability is at the top of the agenda, for both government and business. That was in evidence at our very successful Council Meeting in Seoul. The roster of stellar speakers at our opening plenary included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; Korean Prime Minister, Hwang-sik Kim; and Vice Minister for the Environment, Jong-Soo Yoon. They selected the WBCSD as the platform from which to address leaders of the global business community.
I was delighted when Secretary-General Ban “extended a hand” to the business community, to collaborate on its sustainability efforts. It is our responsibility to embrace Secretary-General Ban’s offer because only when all stakeholders work together, can we achieve our vision for a sustainable world. Business’s relationship with government will be key to fruitful progress.
In describing Korea’s approach to sustainability, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik’s remarks showed why we had chosen Seoul for this year’s Meeting: Korea was one of the first countries to put green initiatives in place, and dedicates two percent of its GDP to a green budget. As a result of its clear focus, Korea has by now gathered many of the headline Green Growth institutes within its borders. Prime Minister Kim also underlined the important role business plays.
After our guests left - - and the media had been shown out of the building - - it was back to business. Working groups re-grouped, and re-energized, to debate and agree the direction projects will take next year.
Realizing Vision 2050
Vision 2050 made a significant impact when it was launched in 2010: it is a flagship of WBCSD thought leadership, and is used by companies and governments around the world for long term planning on sustainability. But unless this thought leadership is turned into strategic action, it will not fulfill our ambition to accelerate action and make a real impact.
In Seoul we discussed, with our members, the need to revitalize Vision 2050 to ensure its realization, building on the strong foundations we already have. The importance of issues like social capital were discussed, as well as the benefits of demonstrating progress through a dash board. Scientists from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) showed how the planetary boundaries framework can help ensure that members begin to operate within such boundaries. When complete, members can sign up to Vision 2050, to encourage, measure and recognize progress.
I have spoken before about the fact that the rules of the game need to be changed. Currently, companies are valued based only on their financial performance. But, if social and natural capital is not taken into account, we will not be able to achieve solutions for the world’s sustainability issues at the scale and speed at which they are needed.
The introduction to the Reporting initiative was well attended and is receiving strong support from members.
Reaching Full Potential
Seoul saw the first working group meeting of the new Reaching Full Potential Chemical Sector Project, and the mood was positive. Reaching Full Potential is focused on enabling and scaling up sustainability across the chemical sector value chain. It will place emphasis on the value chains of mobility, buildings, and packaging.
The meeting focused on aligning and developing objectives which included: Avoided Emissions guidance; LCA Guidance and Communication; and Chemistry in the Value Chain: Enabling the Sustainable Future. These workstreams will focus on converging on key sustainability metrics to promote better measurement and reporting across the sector. It will also cooperate along the value chain to understand the key challenges and opportunities for the sector to help enable Vision 2050.
Fundamental industry issues will be tackled by the group during the course of the next two years. These include adaptation, climate resilience and risks, the technology solutions to achieve Vision 2050, how to tap the investment needed for both adaptation and mitigation and the development of tools to measure the contribution to sustainable development of the companies in each region.
During the meeting we also launched the Global Electricity Initiative. This partnership between WBCSD, WEC and GSEP will help WBCSD amplify the outcome of the work program to a wider group of utilities around the world.
A major new initiative was launched bringing together a uniquely global and cross-sectoral group of mobility-related companies and other stakeholders to accelerate progress towards sustainable mobility. This three year project (2013-2015) aims to speed and scale up the implementation of sustainable mobility solutions.
The ultimate goal is to accelerate and extend access to safe, reliable and comfortable mobility for all whilst having zero traffic accidents, low environmental impacts, affordability, and reduced demands on energy and time. The movement of people and goods would be facilitated, contributing to a more prosperous and resilient society by creating new values and businesses, and a positive environmental and economic growth cycle.
There is a palpable, new energy running through the WBCSD and it showed at the Council Meeting: we discussed new approaches to our work and we introduced new concepts. These are all designed to make real and meaningful change as business squares up to the urgent challenges our planet faces.
More than 350 delegates came - - one of the highest turnouts we have ever had. This number includes 60 Council Members, half of our Regional Network and more than 70 speakers. It demonstrates the strong commitment of our membership to make change for a better world.