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WBCSD announces new Business Commission to Tackle Inequality

New initiative seeks to put tackling inequality and creating shared prosperity for all at the heart of business’s agenda for sustainable growth.

Published: 15 Jul 2021
Type: News

Geneva, 15 July 2021: Today, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) announced the launch of a new Business Commission to Tackle Inequality (BCTI), an initiative that will seek to mobilize the global business community to tackle inequality and generate shared prosperity for all.

The BCTI will be supported and steered by forward-thinking global companies and their leaders who have committed to leverage their reach and influence to mobilize business action at scale to tackle inequality globally.

Over the next two years, the Commission will bring together business leaders and a range of experts and stakeholders to shape and promote a compelling common narrative and agenda for business action on inequality. The BCTI will also work to connect companies ready to take action with existing and emerging initiatives providing practical operational support.

As it embarks upon efforts to mobilize business action to tackle inequality and generate shared prosperity for all, the BCTI is very pleased to have engaged the following leaders, to steer these efforts:

  • Mercedes Alonso – Executive Vice President Renewable Polymers & Chemicals, Neste
  • Peter Bakker – President & CEO, WBCSD
  • Noppadol Dej-Udom – Chief Sustainability Officer, C.P. Group
  • Andreas Eggenberg – Chairman, Masisa
  • Lars-Erik Fridolfsson – People & Culture Leader, Inter IKEA Group
  • Alan Jope – CEO, Unilever
  • Ilham Kadri – CEO, Solvay
  • Jane Nelson – Director Corporate Responsibility Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Peter Oosterveer – CEO, Arcadis
  • Sanjiv Puri – Chairman and Managing Director, ITC
  • Camille Putois – CEO, B4IG
  • Caroline Rees – President & Co-founder, Shift
  • Siddharth Sharma – Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Tata Sons
  • Jorge Mario Velásquez­ – President & CEO, Grupo Argos
  • Sunny Verghese – WBCSD Chair & Co-Founder and Group CEO, Olam International

At this juncture, WBCSD is inviting other business leaders to join the BCTI to catalyze business action in support of a more inclusive and equitable society.

The need for business action

Mounting levels of inequality globally represent one of the most pressing challenges facing our world today. Facets of business’s role in tackling inequality are already being explored and advanced under a number of headings, such as diversity and inclusion, human rights due diligence, and commitments to pay living wages, but the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined an urgent need to integrate, elevate, and accelerate these various strands of work. This is the need the BCTI aims to fulfill, ultimately seeking to put inequality on a par with climate change in terms of awareness, attention, and investment.

Endorsement from BCTI Commissioners

Mercedes Alonso, Executive Vice President Renewable Polymers & Chemicals at Neste said: “There is an urgent need to build inclusive economies which value human dignity and extend the benefits of business success to low-income and marginalized people who have historically been economically exploited and socially excluded. Together, we hold the power to reduce inequality and generate shared prosperity that can be enjoyed by all.”

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, said: “Reducing inequality and generating shared prosperity, together with addressing climate change and the loss of nature are the most pressing challenges our world faces, and integral to achieving a world in which 9+ billion people can live well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century. The Business Commission to Tackle Inequality will rally the global business community to shape, elevate, and mainstream a common narrative on the role of business and an agenda for action at scale.”

Noppadol Dej-Udom, Chief Sustainability Officer at C.P. Group said: “C.P. Group is delighted to join the BCTI. With our deep commitment to create benefits for the countries and communities in which we operate, we will continue to work with smallholder farmers, SMEs and other stakeholders across our supply chains to improve their capacity and livelihoods.”

Andreas Eggenberg, Chairman of Masisa said: “Tackling inequality—and creating shared prosperity for all—must be at the heart of business’s agenda for sustainable growth. Masisa is pleased to join the BCTI’s efforts to raise inequality up the agenda for more companies around the world.”

Lars-Erik Fridolfsson, People & Culture Leader at Inter IKEA Group said: Equality is a fundamental human right and the base from which to build a better life. IKEA has set out to promote and champion equality, in line with our vision to create a better everyday life for the many people. We are pleased to join this business coalition, standing alongside other companies and organizations who recognize the urgency with which we must tackle inequality - in the context of global health and environmental challenges that exacerbate it. We look forward to taking an action-oriented approach with this coalition and together amplifying the impact we can have.

Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever said: “Capitalism is evolving so that our market-based systems build on their historical strengths to incentivize outcomes that are better for people, the planet and our economy. The two biggest collective challenges that we face - social inequality and climate change - are still getting worse, not better. Inequality destroys trust in institutions including business, it fractures society, and it holds back economic progress. This Commission will play an important role in generating shared prosperity for all”.

Ilham Kadri, CEO of Solvay said: “Today we are seeing the consequences of inequality unfold around the world. But inequality is not a fact of nature—it is a product of our systems and practices, which we can change. The BCTI has a critical role to play in raising awareness, changing mindsets, designing a transition pathway to a more inclusive and equal world, and eventually having a major positive impact throughout the business community.”

Peter Oosterveer, CEO of Arcadis said: “At Arcadis, our purpose is improving quality of life, not for a select few, but for everyone. That’s why we fully support the Business Commission to Tackle Inequality and why I am proud to join as a commissioner. All businesses must be fully engaged in this effort in order to create shared prosperity, which is the cornerstone of a sustainable future.”

Sanjiv Puri, Chairman of ITC Ltd. said: “Inequality has serious consequences for social stability, economic progress and business's license to operate, innovate, and grow. Corporates have a unique opportunity to fashion innovative business models that enable systems transformation to tackle inequity. ITC is proud to support the work of the BCTI and its endeavors to drive business action at scale.”

Caroline Rees, President & Co-founder of Shift said: “For decades, the world has bet on business practices and economic models that thrive by externalizing costs and risks onto the most vulnerable workers, communities and consumers. The results today are unconscionable and unsustainable levels of inequality that we must urgently reverse. And it won’t be possible unless we make respect for people’s dignity integral to how business gets done.”

Siddharth Sharma, Group Chief Sustainability Officer at Tata Sons said: “The Tata Group’s mission is to improve the quality of life of the communities we serve globally, through long term stakeholder value creation based on Leadership with Trust. Over more than 150 years of our existence we have always striven to work alongside our communities and make them more empowered, financially prosperous and resilient. We are happy to be joining the BCTI, and believe that a common commitment around tackling inequality and collaborative partnerships based on shared learnings are the best way forward on this journey.”

Sunny Verghese, CEO of Olam and Chair of WBCSD said: “Business has a powerful role to play in reducing inequality and making it possible for all people to live the kinds of lives they aspire to. Olam has seen this through our efforts to improve incomes and living standards in smallholder farming communities. Collaboration across industry, with government, and other stakeholders, is vital to delivering more opportunities, for more people, and we are delighted to help drive this agenda forward through the BCTI.”

To find out more about the BCTI and for details on how to get involved, please visit the website or contact James Gomme, Director of the People & Society Program at WBCSD.

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