Our History

The world faces three critical challenges: the climate emergency, nature loss and mounting inequality.

WBCSD was established in 1995, as a platform for business to respond to sustainability challenges that were just beginning to break the surface of collective business consciousness.


Almost three decades later, as we reflect on our heritage and achievements, the urgency is clearer than ever. We know that we need to ramp up our efforts to achieve our vision of a world where more than 9 billion people live well, within planetary boundaries, by 2050.


The need for the sustainable transformation of the systems that govern our world is well recognized but also more urgent than ever before.


Guided by our mission to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world and to help make more sustainable businesses more successful, WBCSD and our members have been instrumental in this shift.

The birth of WBCSD

The birth

WBCSD was forged in the fire of leadership and collaboration, two values that continue to define the organization today.

In 1990, Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, appointed Swiss businessman Stephan Schmidheiny to promote sustainable development among global business leaders in preparation for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.


Schmidheiny enlisted 48 CEOs to form the “Business Council for Sustainable Development” in 1991, providing a confidential forum for open dialogue. Their first major contribution was “Changing Course,” a comprehensive guide on business adaptation for sustainability, published at the Rio Earth Summit.


Following the summit’s success, the members advocated for the continuation of their work, leading to the merger of the BCSD with the World Industry Council for the Environment in 1995, forming the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) based in Geneva.

Shaping and influencing

Shaping and

Founded on the principles of leadership and collaboration, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) emerged from visionary beginnings.

In 1990, UNCED Secretary-General Maurice Strong tasked Swiss businessman Stephan Schmidheiny with integrating a business perspective into global sustainability dialogues.


Schmidheiny successfully mobilized 48 CEOs worldwide to advocate for sustainable development, leading to the formation of the “Business Council for Sustainable Development” in 1991. Their landmark publication, “Changing Course,” debuted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, offering a detailed blueprint for business adaptation to sustainable practices.


Building on the summit’s success, the group, recognizing the ongoing need for a unified business voice in sustainability, merged with the World Industry Council for the Environment in 1995, creating the WBCSD with a Geneva-based secretariat and a commitment to global sustainability leadership.

Our timeline

WBCSD Milestones