tive and pre-eminent business voice on sustainable devel- opment. Box 1 lists the key events and milestones in the organization’s development.
WBCSD is a pure membership organization in that its 126 member corporations are the principal source of financ- ing and directly participate in agenda setting and govern- ance.10 However, with the annual membership subscrip- tion being US$30,000 and membership offered only by invitation, it is a fairly exclusive club. For all practical purposes it remains a coalition of big businesses, predomi- nantly from the advanced industrialized countries. Al- though technically there are no barriers—except hefty an- nual dues—to the inclusion of smaller companies, especially from developing countries, the priorities and focus of the organization is decidedly on issues of greater concern to large corporations.
According to the WBCSD leadership, ‘a large member- ship roster is not our overriding concern.’11 In fact, the number of total members has not grown substantially since 1995, with most new additions made principally to improve geographic or sectoral coverage. For the most part WBCSD tries to address the geographic imbalance through its global network of ‘partner’ (but non-member) associa- tions. Efforts have been made to strengthen and activate this network, which now comprises 18 national BCSDs and an assortment of national and international business or- ganizations.
Even in taking over many features of WICE, WBCSD closely mirrors the BCSD design. An important compo- nent is that, unlike in WICE, membership is by invitation only ‘to companies committed to the concepts of sustain- able development and responsible environmental manage- ment’.12 Apart from annual dues, members are also ex- pected to provide in-kind and personnel support, includ- ing financial backing for individual working groups, and the active participation, including secondment, of their staff in the WBCSD work programme. In return WBCSD of- fers them the ability to ‘exert greater influence on the frame- work conditions under which [the member companies] operate by being represented by a credible advocate.’13 Living up to its claim of speaking ‘the language of busi- ness’, WBCSD makes an appealing case of why major multinational corporations should join its ranks: ‘The col- lective voice of a cross-sectoral and global body like the WBCSD offers companies greater weight in the sustain- able development debate than they would otherwise have singly.’14
The promise being offered is that ‘WBCSD [will provide] companies with an edge on the competition by being aware, ahead of others, and thus able to anticipate the emerging environmental and social trends which might impact their business.’15 The appeal of the argument is reflected in the WBCSD membership roster, which, although short, in-
CURRENT ISSUES AND KEY THEMES
cludes some very significant corporate players, including such giants as Assurances Générales de France, Rhône- Poulenc (France), Bayer, Hoechst (Germany), Fiat Auto (Italy), Heineken, Philips Electronics, Unilever (Nether- lands), Norsk Hydro (Norway), ABB Asea Brown Boveri, Nestlé, Société Générale (Switzerland), British Petroleum, Glaxo Wellcome, ICI, Shell International (United King- dom), Ontario Hydro (Canada), AT&T, Cargill, CH2M Hill, Dow Chemicals, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, General Motors, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Monsanto, Proctor & Gamble, 3M Corporation, Xerox (United States), Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Nissan Motors, Seiko, Sony, Tokyo Electric, Toyota (Japan), and Samsung and LG Group (Korea). A few large corporations from devel- oping countries and transition economies, such as Chemi- cal Works Sokolov (Czech Republic), Aracruz Celulose (Brazil), Grupo Vitro (Mexico), China Petro-Chemical (China), and Inti Karya Persada Tehnik (Indonesia), are also members.
Participation is sought at the very highest level, normally from the chief executive officer (CEO) or equivalent. This ensures an earnestness of commitment from the company and allows WBCSD greater credibility in its advocacy ac- tivities. WBCSD is governed by a Council, composed of the CEOs of member companies, which meets once a year to determine organizational priorities and direction. It is also responsible for appointing the Executive Committee, determining membership dues, and approving the budget. Council members co-chair WBCSD working groups and are called upon to speak on its behalf at relevant forums. Each Council Member appoints a ‘Liaison Delegate’, nor- mally a senior member of their staff, who supports them in their WBCSD responsibilities, participates in working groups on their behalf, and interacts with the Secretariat and other member companies. Liaison delegates meet twice a year in plenary sessions and throughout the year in work- ing group meetings. An Executive Committee of up to 14 CEOs from member companies oversees the management of WBCSD, and normally meets three times a year. It is responsible for appointing the President, approving work- ing groups, WBCSD reports and books, and finalizing the budget. The day-to-day management is handled by a Sec- retariat in Geneva, headed by a full-time President (Execu- tive Director until 1997). In 1998 the Secretariat had a staff strength of about 30.16
Surprisingly, no financial and budgetary data on the organization is publicly available. Not only are the WBCSD annual reports silent on this subject (unlike those that its members are more used to), but repeated requests to obtain this information proved unsuccessful. However, some estimates can be made. The bulk of WBCSD’s direct funding comes from the annual membership fee of US$30,000 (for 1998) that each corporate member pays.