Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Corporate leadership in global development

Poverty continues to be one of the main challenges facing the countries that will be home to 85% of the world's population in the decades to come. Today some 2.7 billion people worldwide continue to subsist on less than US$2 per day. The challenge facing the global community is to eradicate extreme poverty and to foster broad based economic development that benefits all while preserving the world’s ecosystems. Business is a core human activity, and it has a key role to play in bringing about sustainable development.

A new publication by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), entitled "Doing Business with the World - The new role of corporate leadership in global development", shows how companies can contribute to sustainable development through their core business activities in a way that is profitable for the companies and good for development. It offers a business perspective on key challenges and opportunities for the development of low-income countries, as well as key messages for companies and governments on how to promote sustainable business solutions that benefit the poor and the societies and environments in which they live.

The issues selected are Ecosystems, Education and Training, Energy, Enterprise Development, Financial Flows, Governance, Health, Mobility, Trade, and Water. This is not an exhaustive list, but these issues reflect both traditional areas for development actors as well as business.

What are the key messages emerging from this piece of work?
Firstly, that given the right conditions, the private sector can improve the lives of people in the low-income segment through direct employment, procurement from local suppliers and service providers, and delivery of affordable products and services. Companies can contribute to vocational training and capacity building, they invest and operate key infrastructure services, they support healthcare initiatives and education, reduce dependence on scarce raw materials, create new businesses to preserve ecosystems and help governments embed good governance, thereby increasing regulatory transparency for business itself.

For their part, governments need to establish the necessary framework conditions through policies and legislation, including financial and taxation legislation, business regulation, and clearly defined ownership and property rights. Governments are also urged to demonstrate their commitment through investment in core infrastructure, and they can encourage investment and engagement on the part of large corporations by creating a favorable investment climate be establishing stable and transparent regulatory regimes.
Besides the core publication, the WBCSD provides online material to complement the issues discussed in the report, most notably one-page facts & trends sheets highlighting key facts for each topic. These pages will be supplemented with further topics not included in the core publication: Accountability, Agriculture, Consumption, Income and Wealth, ICT, Labor and Employment, and Population.

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