Follow the Leader
March 2001, Holliday addressed the Chicago Executives Club
in his role as chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable
Development (WBCSD). The following is an excerpt from that speech.
In recent years, various experts have extrapolated the consumption
rates of developed countries to the rest of the world. Conclusions
vary, but it appears that for developing countries to attain the
consumption levels of the developed countries, we would require
the resources of at least three more earths.
We have only one earth. Some would argue that the standard
of living in the developed world must be lowered for the developing
world to progress. We disagree! If we use our creativity and scientific
knowledge effectively, we can improve the standard of living for
all. This is the major opportunity for business. At DuPont, we call
it the challenge of sustainable growth.
The challenge of sustainable growth is a nuts-and-bolts
business reality. We made it the primary objective of our company,
because we believe sustainable growth will be the common denominator
of successful global companies in the 21st century.
Heres how we state the challenge: How do we provide
a strong return for our shareholders, grow our businesses and meet
the human needs of societies around the world, while at the same
time reducing the environmental footprint of our operations and
For the past decade we have been aware that the models on
which we based our businesses and production were not sustainable
over the long haul. Essentially DuPont, like many other manufacturing
companies, grew by making more stuff. Business growth
was directly proportionate to the increased throughput of energy
and raw materials at our plants and the resulting waste and emissions
from our operations.
We knew from our experience in the 1970s and 1980s that the
environmentaland subsequent political and regulatoryconsequences
of this approach to growth were severe. Under Ed Woolards
leadership in the early 1990s we beganand we have continueda
very aggressive effort to reduce the environmental impact of our
Weve made progress. In the process, we learned that
improved environmental performance was a necessary, but not sufficient
condition of sustainability. Even if we cleaned up all manufacturing
companies, the world would not be on a sustainable path. Global
consumption patterns were inherently unsustainable given existing
technology, energy resources and products.
The need to understand how industry could evolve sustainable
models was the idea behind the World Business Council for Sustainable
Developmentan organization formed in 1991, and which I currently
have the privilege to chair. Four years ago the World Business Council
launched a project to develop an understanding of the concept of
sustainable consumption. We did not accept the idea that global
consumption is a zero sum game in which the developed economies
would have to give up some of their quality of life to help the
people in the rest of the world. We viewed that approach as destroying
a fundamental premise for businesss existenceto create
goods and services to improve quality of life. We set out to create
a different vision.
The results of our effortSustainability Through the
Marketis a holistic approach that acknowledges two essential
facts about the current global economy. One is that most of the
worlds people cannot participate in the markets where our
companies do business. As a result, they cannot obtain the products
that help them meet their human needs. The other is that we cannot
reach these billions of potential customers, and so we forgo the
growth that their lost business represents.
The solution is to optimize markets so that they can help
promote and sustain social equity, economic prosperity and environmental
integrity. That is the new definition of social responsibility,
and it is joined at the hip to business self-interest. Business
will not succeed in the 21st century if societies fail or if ecosystems
around the world continue to deteriorate.
Our final score cards will not be determined by talks in great
halls but by real results measured both in small steps and in major
leaps. Results that our shareholders and our customers value, and
which help societies around the world prosper, will be the measure
of our success.
DuPont's Pathways to Sustainability -->>