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Walking the Talk
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Walking the Talk

The Business Case for Sustainable Development 

Charles O. Holliday, Jr, Chairman and CEO, DuPont; Stephan Schmidheiny, Honorary Chairman, World Business Council for Sustainable Development; and Philip Watts, Chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors, Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies
August 2002   288 pp   234 x 156 mm  
hardback   ISBN 978-1-874719-50-2   £21.95  


Review copies   Inspection copies

Top corporate leaders show how globalisation can work for all. A landmark report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Ranked as "one of the best ten publications on sustainable development"
GlobeScan Survey of Sustainability Experts, 2004


Buy this title together with Managing the Business Case for Sustainability, The Integration of Social, Environmental and Economic Performance and save £21.95/€32.95/$29.95.

Buy now   More info



Ten years on from the Rio Earth Summit, world leaders will gather again in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September. As planetary anxieties about globalization, poverty and climate change grow, where does the international business community stand? Are they a barrier to change or an engine for it?

One outcome of Rio was Changing Course, the hugely influential book by Swiss industrialist Stephan Schmidheiny, which argued that business needed to be part of the solution to global environmental degradation. Now, Schmidheiny has joined with fellow prime movers in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD — the key business organization focusing on policy research and development in this crucial area), Chad Holliday, Chairman and CEO of DuPont; and Philip Watts, Chairman of Shell; to spell out the real business case for addressing sustainable development as a key strategic issue.

The results are ground-breaking. For the first time, leading industrialists are arguing that not only is sustainable development good for business, the solving of environmental and social problems is essential for future growth. Drawing on a wealth of case studies and personal interviews from business leaders operating around the world, Walking the Talk clearly demonstrates that the vanguard who have operationalized leading-edge environmental and social initiatives are benefiting in a myriad of ways that benefit the bottom line — and the planet. The book argues that the time for rhetoric is over. The business of business has changed.

Even more remarkably, the authors insist that a global partnership — between governments, business and civil society — is essential, if accelerating moves towards globalization are to maximize opportunities for all — especially the world's poor. As Chad Holliday recently stated in an address to the United Nations: 'Given existing technology and products, for all six billion people on the planet to live like the average American, we would require the equivalent of three planet Earths to provide the material, create the energy and dispose of the waste.' Such an option is evidently not available and the book argues that far more eco-efficient and socially equitable modes of development must be pursued in order to allow poorer nations to raise their standards of living.

The solution provided by Walking the Talk is to mobilize markets in favour of sustainability, leveraging the power of innovation and global markets for the benefits of everyone — not just the developed world. This means a further liberalization of the market-a move that would be condemned by anti-globalization protestors. Yet, as the authors argue, business cannot succeed in failing societies. When the global market fails poor countries, where most of the world's people live, it will also eventually fail business. Subsidies for rich countries' products and tariffs against poor countries' products do not constitute a 'free' market, or one that best serves people or business. Similarly, governments cannot subsidize fossil fuels or water and expect businesses, or ordinary citizens, to use them efficiently. So, a new, fair and equitable market is needed. A market that can work for all. The authors therefore call on protestors against globalization to stop protesting against the market and instead to campaign instead against the perverse policies that impoverish people and their environment.

Walking the Talk explores the opportunities and challenges inherent in eco-efficiency (producing more with less), corporate social responsibility, and a transparent, 'wired' world where reputations can be irreversibly damaged — or enhanced — in real time. It also devotes a chapter to ways in which corporations can and must 'learn to change'. It examines the new partnerships needed among companies, governments, and civil society to produce real change, and the ways in which these alliances can work for all concerned. And it argues that consumer choice and consumer information should be encouraged as a positive force for sustainable development. Only what is valued is carefully used and so creating markets for environmental goods and services may be the best way to protect scarce resources. This is especially true in efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, where business-like approaches, such as the development of carbon trading, offer workable solutions to policy-makers.

Whether small, medium or large, all businesses must innovate and change to meet the social and environmental challenges of the coming years. Walking the Talk provides a broad set of proven roadmaps to success as well as real-life inspiration for business to embrace the real challenge — to build a global economy that works for all the world's people.


'Changing course' was the message of the book published by Stephan Schmidheiny for the Earth Summit in 1992. Ten years on, Stephan Schmidheiny, Chad Holliday and Philip Watts demonstrate how a number of leading companies have started to 'walk the talk'. I hope that the concrete examples provided in this book will catalyze the necessary change of course in the millions of companies that still continue with business as usual. I also hope that this publication will encourage business leaders to work with governments to adopt the necessary regulatory and economic frameworks that will enable market forces to drive a life-cycle economy and a more equitable world. Congratulations for this important undertaking.
Dr Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Program

This book shows us that the most successful companies will be those that achieve sustainable development through learning from the marvelous mechanism of nature and power of life — Nature's Wisdom — and innovate accordingly.
Dr Shoichiro Toyoda, Honorary Chairman, Member of the Board, Toyota Motor Company

In the global era not only commerce, but also information and civil society are global. In Walking the Talk these forward-thinking business leaders make a powerful case that in the global era an enterprise's license to operate depends on strategies that respond to broad societal values: protecting the environment, respecting human rights, promoting development that meets human needs, sharing information, and embracing scrutiny and input from civil society.
Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute

Ten years after Rio, we approach the next Earth Summit in Johannesburg. Much has been accomplished in the corporate sector over the past decade. Ten years ago, the agenda was about 'changing course', 'eco-efficiency', and 'market failures'. Today, it is about 'sustainable growth', 'the bottom of the pyramid', and 'walking the talk'. Ten years from now we will look back and be amazed at how far the business sector has pushed the sustainable development agenda forward.
Professor Stuart Hart, Director, Center for Sustainable Enterprise, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina

For me, the appearance of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was one of the most important unofficial outcomes of the Rio Summit in 1992. It signalled the beginning of a period where it became clear that governments alone cannot achieve sustainability, and preconceptions about business being all about profit and NGOs all about ethics and voluntarism disintegrated. Walking the Talk demonstrates that we are all sitting in the same planetary boat.
Dr Claude Martin, Director General, WWF International

In growing numbers, business leaders are coming out of the closet to acknowledge the design problems of our outlaw industrial system. Evolving an economic system consistent with the laws of nature is the challenge of our times. It will require harnessing imagination and innovation of businesses around the world. In this process, the leadership of large global corporations will be pivotal.Walking the Talk is an important next step in the beginnings of a very long journey.
Peter M. Senge, MIT and SoL (Society for Organizational Learning)


... this is an excellent book on corporate responsibility ... everyone is going to find some practical advice that will help them get on with the job, especially those readers that are in the privileged position to be responsible for creating the leadership vision of corporate responsibility.
Ethical Corporation

Where this book scores is on making the point that the business of business should be a humane one, that social justice is at the heart of business and that, currently, markets are flawed by not including full-price costing for environmental and social impacts.
TheJournal of Corporate Citizenship

... this book is most welcome as an example of a group — the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) — of multi-nationals and their leaders showing a willingness to draw the circle to include more than the narrow, short-term self interest of their companies. I think this book is of major importance — so I'm not going to chip away at it in the usual manner of reviewers. Why? Because this book is that important and it matters that the authors have their say. Please, please read this book.

This book, launched at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, will act as a permanent reminder for business of the aims of the Summit, and offers an effective tool to help companies on the road to sustainable development.

... it is a primer in a novel and controversial approach to corporate organisation and management, as practised by the 160 or so member companies of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
Chemistry in Britain

Too much of the literature on sustainability is taken up with immoderate attack on business . . . and equally immoderate defence of the (implied) perfection of the present state of globalization and behaviour of companies. It is very refreshing to have an impeccable business source that acknowledges the move to sustainability as important business that is still in its early stages. The authors describe the successes, failings, dilemmas and the rewards on the journey to sustainability.
Change Management Monitor Newsletter

Part 1: The Foundation

The Business Case for Sustainable Development

This item available in PDF format for free download     Download

Part 2: The 10 Building Blocks

1. The Market

2. The Right Frame

3. Eco-efficiency

4. Corporate Social Responsibility

5. Learning to Change

6. From Dialogue to Partnerships

7. Informing and Providing Consumer Choice

8. Innovation

9. Reflecting the Worth of the Earth

10. Making Markets Work for All

Charles O. HollidayCharles O. Holliday, Jr is Chairman and CEO of DuPont. Holliday is an industrial engineer by training who, in his 30-year DuPont career, has touched virtually every aspect of the business—from fibers and chemicals to agricultural products and biotechnology. Holliday is a former chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Stephan SchmidheinyStephan Schmidheiny is Chairman of Anova Holding AG. A Swiss industrialist, Schmidheiny founded the Business Council for Sustainable Development after he was named Principal Advisor for Business and Industry to the secretary general of the 1992 ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio. He was the principal author of Changing Course and is now the honorary chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Philip WattsPhilip Watts is Chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors of The Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies and Chairman of the Shell Transport and Trading Company. He joined Shell in 1969 and has worked in Indonesia, the UK, Norway, and the Netherlands. Watts is the current chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and of the UK chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a coalition of 160 international companies — including: AOL Time Warner, AT&T, Bayer, BP, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, and many others — united by a shared commitment to sustainable development via the three pillars of economic growth, ecological balance, and social progress. Their members are drawn from more than 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors.