On the path to a sustainable future

24 June 2010 | Article

 The World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) latest report “Vision 2050: The new agenda for business” outlines what is required to put the planet back on a sustainable path.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has a vision: In 2050, some 9 billion people will live well, and within the limits of what our small, fragile planet can supply and renew, every day.

The WBCSD’s latest report Vision 2050: The new agenda for business – a project led by 29 global companies representing 14 industries –outlines what it will take to achieve this ambition, providing the “must haves” that will put the planet on a sustainable path.

Resource constraints call for full-cost accounting

A series of actions and bold steps need to be taken. For instance, it will be essential to reflect the true costs of producing a good or delivering a service into prices, including accounting for the use of natural resources (i.e., ecosystem services and biodiversity), along with the removal of perverse subsidies that keep unsustainable practices in the mainstream. Leveling the playing field in this direction will ensure that the appropriate mechanisms are built into the marketplace for all players, allowing business to deliver solutions that are both sustainable and competitive and enabling consumers to choose sustainable products not just because they are sustainable but because they deliver better value.

In the course of this transition, political and business constituencies will need to shift from thinking of climate change and resource constraints as environmental problems to economic issues related to the sharing of opportunity and costs.

A model of growth and progress will be sought that is based on a balanced use of renewable resources and recycling those that are not. This will spur a green race, with governments and business working together as well as competing to get ahead.

Companies are part of the solution to a sustainable world

This transformation will bring huge shifts in terms of regulation, markets, consumer preferences, the pricing of inputs, and the measurement of profit and loss; all of which will impact business. Because companies are part of the solution and have skills and know-how to offer, they cannot afford to follow the changes, they must lead this transformation by doing they do best: create cost-effective solutions that people need and want.

Making these changes – and more – will enable us to consume just over one planet’s worth of ecological resources in 2050, as opposed to the 2.3 planets we will be using if we continue on the path we are on today.

Download the Vision 2050 report