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Business and Sustainability – the odd couple

March 1, 2011

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

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Wikipedia’s entry for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development ( nicely frames the dynamic and complex relationship of global business interests within the discussion of sustainability.

Section 8 (reprinted here for your reference), states:


Pros and Cons of the WBCSD

The WBCSD is significant in its advocacy of largely market-oriented solutions to challenges of sustainable development.

The ‘Pros’ of this approach include:

  • Alerting business to the need for change to become sustainable
  • Promotion of sustainability, sharing best practice
  • Taking ‘initiative’ by making sustainability a global concern, backed by large and influential multinationals, corporations and organizations

The ‘Cons’ of this market-based approach include:

  • The potential ‘deradicalization’ of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • The depiction of sustainability agendas and business agendas as mutually compatible. This is described as a ‘win-win’ scenario; thus, the existence of ‘win-lose’ scenarios is neglected.
  • The potential for conflation of internal contradictions within business and ‘muddying of the waters’ through such means as ‘greenwash’, ‘bluewash‘, ‘astroturfing‘ and corporate agenda setting [1]


Having read this, what are the resources and strategems available to the practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) official in balancing societal and corporate interests at times when, despite all the patriotic statements, interests conflict?

How do you reconcile the two?  What experiences can you share here to invigorate others’ efforts?

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