Björn Stigson

Björn Stigson
President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Former President and CEO of the Fläkt Group, the world leader in environmental control technology, became president of the WBCSD on 1 January 1995. He serves on the board or advisory council of several organizations, including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Global Reporting Initiative, the Clinton Global Initiative, and recently of the government of China.


The business case for sustainable development

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) arose from the vision of a Swiss industrialist who realized that business has an inevitable role to play in sustainable development. Not just as a catalyst for change, but also because business needs sustainable development to fulfill its potential.

That industrialist, Stephan Schmidheiny, coordinated business participation in the 1992 Earth Summit. He set up the beginnings of the Council in 1991 to stimulate industry involvement in the Rio Earth Summit. The businesses recognized the need for new, long-term partnerships to boost economic development and social and environmental standards. With his partners, Schmidheiny concluded that they needed to keep cooperation alive and build on the momentum created. This led to what in 1995 became the WBCSD.

Today the Council works from Geneva through an extensive network: about 190 members - the heads of corporations with a combined annual turnover of more than US$ 6 trillion - and a network of some 60 national BCSDs and partner organizations. It is the leading advocate for sustainability in the business community.

From the beginning the Council has been an organization of alliances and partnerships. It partners with NGOs, communications groups and academic institutions, as well as international organizations. In 2005 it adopted a 10-year strategy formally acknowledging the need for advocacy to tackle the major challenges of sustainability. It also acknowledged that the world is shifting toward partnerships between government, business and civil society.

Our impact on business is as important as explaining to the wider world the positive role that industry can play in sustainable development. For example, the 2002 Mining, Minerals & Sustainable Development Project, bringing many of the world's largest mining, metals and minerals companies together to focus on sustainable development, developed under the aegis of the WBCSD. This provided an in-depth analysis of the industry and made a critical contribution to the future focus of the whole mining and metals sector.

For the WBCSD, there is no paradox in coordinating all this global work from Geneva. The Earth Summit - which gave business a voice in international deliberations on sustainable development - was prepared from Geneva, making use of the same advantages as those that attract us. The multiplicity of organizations in the region, concerned with all aspects of sustainable development, along with the diplomatic missions that work with them, and the range of NGOs make this an ideal place for dialogue on new ideas and planning international action.