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July 28, 2010
Report Examines Role of Business in a Sustainable Economy
    by Robert Kropp

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development identifies alarming levels of growth in urbanization and consumption, and describes crucial role of business in transition to sustainability.

According to a report entitled Business and Development: Challenges and Opportunities in a Rapidly Changing World, published this month by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), "The world is experiencing a historic shift of economic and political power from the traditional base of industrialized countries to the emerging economies."

As the report points out, by 2050, three of the four largest economies—China, India, and Brazil—will be those of countries now described as developing. As development in those and other developing countries intensifies, their populations will become increasingly urban. By 2050, when the world's population is expected to be about 9 billion, 70% of the world's population will live in urban environments, with the great majority living in cities in developing countries.

"Urbanization is happening fast," the report observes, "And most of it is being poorly managed, putting hundreds of millions of the urban poor in harm's way."

As the economic emergence of the economies of developing countries continues, global consumption patterns will become increasingly critical. According to the report, "Global consumption patterns and trends are putting unsustainable and increasing stress on the Earth’s ecosystems, the supply of material resources needed for industrial growth, and human social systems and well-being."

The role of business in addressing the problems of urbanization and unsustainable consumption will be important. According to the report, "There is no longer a choice between economic growth and environmental well-being: they are interdependent, and if we do not make sure we have both, we risk ending up with neither."

Therefore, it is in the best interest of business to provide sustainable solutions to such growing problems. The report recommends that business contribute to the stability of developing countries, minimize risk by proactively addressing socioeconomic and environmental concerns, develop models for working with low-income communities, and recognize the significant business opportunities available in the transition to a sustainable global economy.

Recognizing that "business can neither achieve sustainable development nor alleviate poverty by itself," the report concludes by stating, "Business, governments and civil society must all transform, as all three strive, with their different accountabilities and capacities, toward the single goal of sustainable human progress."


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