Time and again, we hear the comments: What
are corporations doing about sustainable development? When are
they going to get it? If only industry would . . .
The United States Business Council for Sustainable Development
(US BCSD) is here to tell you it does get it. In fact, it intends
to lead the way.
A non-profit association of industry leaders whose purpose is to
create and deliver sustainable development projects in the United
States, the US BCSD was
created to seek collaborative, non-confrontational, results-oriented
methodologies that demonstrate the viability of sustainable development
at the operational level. In short, the US BCSD’s goal is
to create value through action.
Launched in 2002, the US BCSD is a partner organization of the
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a network
of 160 international companies with members drawn from 30 countries
and 20 major industrial sectors. While the WBCSD is global in reach,
the US BCSD is focused on addressing issues more specific to the
The concern is no longer whether industry leaders see the light.
Companies today are painfully aware that economic prosperity at
any price is simply not sustainable. Socially speaking, it has
been well established that society will not accept businesses that
are not fundamentally ethical, responsible and accountable. Environmentally,
the impacts are hitting closer to home as companies increasingly
deal with natural resource and power limitations for plant operations.
To a large extent, industrial leaders today are fully engaged in
the how of it all. While sustainable development as a concept is
comprehensible enough, implementation requires more thorough and
sophisticated thinking. This journey toward sustainable development
is still uncharted territory for many of the levels on which business
operates, and turning big ships around requires great vision, expert
leadership and collaborative teamwork. Along the way, every kind
of cultural, regulatory, economical and technological barrier surfaces
and must be sorted out. Boards must be educated and employees trained.
Dialogue and trust must be developed with stakeholders and, yes,
the economic bottom line must continue to be reconciled. This is
not work for the meek.
For the US BCSD members though, the rewards are clear on both a
professional and personal level. While they are certainly stimulated
by breakthrough technological innovation and brand opportunities,
what draws industry is also a more human element.
For the first time in this debate of industry versus the public
good, there seems to be a genuine bridge, a winning proposition
for business, society and the environment alike. Each of us has
a stake in this. It’s the retiring CEO who’s beginning
to comprehend his company’s impact on his grandchildren’s
future. The employee who’s excited to come to work because
she’s inspired by the chance to create a better product and
make a difference on a deeper level. The community members who
are pleased to provide a license to operate in exchange for jobs
and a better lifestyle, because they recognize that this company
will also protect the health of the local environment. Sustainable
development seems to provide a harmony of direction for all involved—opportunities
for new business, work with a more fulfilled sense of purpose,
and respect for natural resources.
A Knowledge Collective
As a multi-interest forum, the council’s strength lies in
its ability to galvanize companies and ideas that offer cross-industry
opportunities and resolutions. It relies on the richness of the
hands-on experience, information and approaches of its members.
Because member companies and associations come to the table with
their own project needs, they create their own value. Rather than
each individual company attempting to resolve the same issues that
others are also coping with, the council provides an arena of trust
and partnership so those struggling with implementation can explore,
develop, test and refine their approaches—before even hitting
the ground—by tapping into the collective knowledge and intelligence
of fellow members.
The US BCSD believes that a broad spectrum of partnerships brings
about more holistic solutions. It collaborates with academia, which
serves as a knowledge base, a credible mediator, the supplier of
human resources and provider of clues to the development of new
technologies. Non-governmental organizations are important stakeholders
because they bring important social diversity. Smaller companies
are encouraged to join to benefit from the dialogue and access
to representation at a leadership level.
Industry is clearly in a mass transformation, and the US BCSD is
working to share its voice and collective wisdom as a means to
sustainable solutions here in the United States.
“Sustainable development isn’t for everyone,” says Gordon
Forward, US BCSD member and former CEO of Chaparral Steel, “but
my thought is: I love to compete with people who think that way.”
Callie Lasch is director of communications for the US BCSD. For
membership information, visit www.usbcsd.org or contact William
Burnidge at 512-892-6411.
The US BCSD is focused on five project platforms:
- By-Product Synergy: A practical application of industrial ecology
in which companies work together in a given region to match feedstock
needs to unwanted by-products trans- forming waste to product.
BPS projects have been successfully implemented in multiple U.S.
states, as well as in Mexico and Canada. BPS work is ongoing with
local, state and federal agencies to create incentives to remove
regulatory barriers to by-product reuse.
- Sustainable Forestry: The US BCSD is working with conservation
groups, universities, landowners and forest product companies
to identify and realize the environmental,
economic and social benefits of converting frequently flooded
agricultural lands into
sustainable forests. These projects involve using public conservation funds
to leverage private investment in future timber harvest and carbon credits.
- Supply/Value Chain Integration: This project links large multi-national
companies with small and medium-size enterprises to improve the sustainability
of their shared supply/value chains. The council is currently evaluating projects that
include: ransportation, operations, maintenance and technological improvements.
- Water Resource Management: In its conceptual stage, a water resource
management initiative is being developed to examine alternatives to current
practices that address resource limitations, constraints and multiple stakeholders
sharing one or more watersheds.
- Education and Knowledge: Basic information is critical to opening
the gateway to new opportunities. Member organizations, associations
and societies all play a role in
communicating risk and advocating solutions that consider social issues
in the context of scientific principles.