The Sustainable Business Challenge
A Briefing for Tomorrow's Business Leaders
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Two decades ago, in the late 1970s, environmental concerns were only beginning to surface in the world's boardrooms. Today, environmental stewardship is part of every board member's vocabulary. So what issues will be on the corporate board agenda twenty years from now? How fully will environmental and social questions be integrated into the fabric of an enterprise? That depends on those entering the corporate world now: by the time today's business students have gained senior positions, concepts such as eco-efficiency and the "social licence to operate" should be common currency. Therefore, environmental concerns will be high on the list of recruitment and career development requirements of 21st-century corporations. So how well prepared are today's business students? The Sustainable Business Challenge began with a collaboration between the WBCSD and the international student organization AISEC to discover precisely that. Environmental staff from the WBCSD's member companies, business professors and members of environmental NGOs were asked to help compile a document of what every student should know. A version was posted on the Internet along with a certificated exam, The Sustainable Business Challenge Exam, and was greeted with much enthusiasm from around the world. This success prompted great demand for an accompanying book. Based on the original Internet background document, The Sustainable Business Challenge is now available. The Sustainable Business Challenge is the most comprehensive and up-to-date primer available on issues of corporate sustainability and of environmental issues that affect business. All the key topics are addressed thoroughly and succinctly:
What does sustainable development mean and what are its implications?
What are the important issues for business regarding climate, water, fisheries, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, energy, transport and waste?
What are the key topics on today's board agenda?
What do businesses need to know about emerging themes such as product stewardship, sustainable consumption, global trade, and risk and uncertainty?
What are the tools for managing the sustainable corporation?What about concepts for the next century, such as eco-efficiency, by-product synergy, the "triple bottom-line"?
In order to put these issues – and many more – in context, they are all viewed from the perspective of the fictional "SDX Corporation" (a US multinational manufacturing corporation) as they get to grips with the policy implications of environmental issues throughout 1999. We eavesdrop on an imagined dialogue as a large corporation questions its future, via board papers, internal memoranda, letters and press clippings. This takes "The Sustainable Business Challenge" above the realm of an environmental management textbook, presenting instead the story of a corporation's search for sustainability. A final chapter takes us to 2020 and imagines what will be on the board's agenda by then. The Sustainable Business Challenge is unique in the breadth of its scope, yet doesn't over-simplify the issues. It is thoroughly revised and up to date (it includes discussion on the implications of the Kyoto negotiations), and includes contributions from John Elkington (SustainAbility), Rick Bunch (World Resources Institute) and numerous others. Anyone – business students, managers, heads of SMEs – looking for a single resource that presents all the key environmental issues as they affect business, now and into the next century, need look no further than The Sustainable Business Challenge.
This intriguing publication is aimed primarily at business students [but] ... the breadth of issues and punchy style will appeal to many audiences. - Tomorrow magazine
In a very creative way, The Sustainable Business Challenge provides a comprehensive primer on the challenges and opportunities facing 21st century business leaders in a graphically interesting and accessible manner ... The book whets the reader's interest in numerous sustainability ideas, while providing a fairly comprehensive and balanced conceptual framework in which to consider business-environment issues. The Sustainable Business Challenge should interest anyone concerned with the future of business and sustainable development. - Local Environment
The Sustainable Business Challenge, written on behalf of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, will provide some useful ideas ... Using everyday business working and communication structures (e.g. board meetings, reports, strategy papers, newspaper clippings), ideas on the sustainable enterprise, key issues, as well as emerging themes and concepts for business and useful tools are explored and assessed ... a refreshing read ... - ICLEI European Circular