A clear indicator of this influence is its now undisputed position as the most representative and authentic voice for big business on environmental issues and its ability to use this position to reframe discussions on sustainable devel- opment around its chosen parameters. By similar token, the potential for WBCSD’s most important influence in the long term lies in the planned WBCSD Virtual University being set up under the aegis of FBSD and the inroads that the organization is already making into universities and their business curricula. By its own accounts, as well as those of its critics, WBCSD has managed to gain deep penetration into the corridors of global environmental policy and will be a major player in international environ- mental policy for the foreseeable future. While some will question the quality of this influence, the influence itself is not in doubt.
What does all of this mean for the larger enterprise for global sustainable development? Can WBCSD ever recon- cile the practical and conceptual differences between the goals of sustainable development and corporate profit? Can one wear Birkenstocks with a pin stripe suit? Maybe, but not just yet.
Notes and References
The author would like to thank Jennifer Biringer, Anthony Amato, and Lynette Martyn (all at Boston University) for their research assistance; Addison Holmes and Christine Elleboode at the WBCSD Secretariat in Geneva for responding to various queries; Helge Ole Bergesen, Julie Fisher, Alexey V. Yablokov, G. Kristin Rosendal, and Carlos Martinez-Vela for their comments; and Øystein B. Thommessen for his patience.
1 Livio DeSimone (1996), ‘Letter from the Chairman’, Annual Review 1996 (Geneva: WBCSD), 3. 2 Speech by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 31 January 1999. 3 A recent report alleges that the UNDP is ‘selling’ its sponsorship to large corporations, including ones with less than perfect environmental records. It claims that ‘UNDP is considering creating a special logo to be used by participating corporations’ and ‘for US$50,000 companies’ tarnished images could be brightened by UN partnership.’ TRAC (1999), A Perilous P a r t n e r s h i p : T h e U n i t e d N a t i o n s D e v e l o p m e n t P r o g r a m m e ’ Flirtation with Corporate Collaboration (San Francisco: Transnational Resource and Action Center/Institute for Policy Studies/Council on International and Public Affairs); available at <http://www.igc.org/trac/undp/undp.pdf>, 3–4. 4 The exclusive luncheon meeting was attended by 37 invited participants, including 15 high-level representatives of govern- ment, among them three heads of state, the Secretary-General of the UN, the Administrator of UNDP, and the UN Under- Secretary-General responsible for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. For a critical first-hand report of the luncheon round table, see David C. Korten (1997), ‘The United Nations and the Corporate Agenda’ (available at <http://iisd.ca/ pcdf/1997/uncorporate.htm>). 5 See, for example, Jed Greer and Kenny Bruno (1996), Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism (New York: s
Apex Press); Greenpeace (1997), Green or Greenwash?: A Greenpeace Detection Kit (San Francisco: Greenpeace Interna- tional); and Josh Karliner (1997), The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in the Age of Globalization (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books). 6 For a wide set of interesting but divergent discussions on that subject, see: Paul Hawken (1993), The Ecology of Commerce (New York: HarperBusiness); Adil Najam (1993), ‘Boardroom Callings: Making Friends with the Earth’, Earth Times, 35/21; Harris Gleckman (1995), ‘Transnational Corporations’ Strategic Responses to Sustainable Development’, in Helge Ole Bergesen and Georg Parmann (eds.) (1995), Green Globe Yearbook of International Co-operation and Development 1995 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 93–106; David C. Korten (1995), When Corporations Rule the World (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press); Matthias Finger and James Kilcoyne (1997), ‘Why Transnational Corporations are Organizing to ‘Save the Global Environment’?’, The Ecologist 27 (July/Aug): 138–42; Karliner (1997), The Corporate Planet; Stephan Schmidheiny, Rodney Chase, and Livio DeSimone (1997), Signals of Change: Business Progress Towards Sustainable Development (Geneva: WBCSD); Kitty Warnock (1997), ‘Green or Mean? Environment and Industry Five Years on from the Earth Summit’, Panos Media Briefing no. 24 (available at <http://www.oneworld.org/panos/ briefing/green.htm>); Michael A. Berry and Dennis A. Rondinelli (1998), ‘Proactive Corporate Environment Management: A New Industrial Revolution’, Academy of Management Executive, 12: 2, 38–50. 7 Stephan Schmidheiny with BCSD (1992), Changing Course: A Global Perspective on Development and the Environment (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). 8 International Chamber of Commerce (1992), From Ideas to Action (Paris: ICC). 9 For a discussion on ICC and a critique of its Charter, see Gleckman (1995), ‘Transnational Corporations’ Strategic Responses to Sustainable Development’. 10 For more on management structures of global associations, see Dennis R. Young, Bonnie L. Koenig, Adil Najam, and Julie Fisher (forthcoming), ‘Strategy and Structure in Managing Global Associations’, Voluntas. 11 WBCSD (1995), Annual Review 1995 (Geneva: WBCSD), 6. 12 WBCSD (1997), Annual Review 1997 (Geneva: WBCSD), 18. 13 WBCSD (1997), The Value of Membership (Geneva, WBCSD). 14 Ibid. 15 WBCSD (undated), Information and Publications (Geneva, WBCSD). 16 Largely based on WBCSD (1997), The Value of Membership. 17 WBCSD (undated), Information and Publications. 18 WBCSD (1997), Annual Review 1997, 2. 19 Ibid., 1. 20 WBCSD (undated), Information and Publications, 1. 21 WBCSD (1997), The Value of Membership. 22 The distinction is obviously relative. Some , in fact, argue that big business was able significantly to influence Agenda 21, especially in its treatment of transnational corporations. See Karliner (1997), The Corporate Planet. 23 Björn Stigson (1998), ‘Governments Need to Open Up to Industry to Halt Climate Change’, Earth Times, 20 December (available at <http://earthtimes.org/dec/ business_investinggovernmentsdec20_98.htm>). 24 See WBCSD & ICC (1997), Business and Climate Change: Case Studies in Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Kyoto: ICC & WBCSD). Also see David L. Levy (1997), ‘Business and International Environmental Treaties: Ozone Depletion and Climate Change’, California Management Review, 39: 3, 54–71.
YEARBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT 1999/2000