King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands met with the Executive Committee (ExCo) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), during the ExCo dinner that took place on 15 March 2023 in Amsterdam and was hosted by Arcadis CEO Peter Oosterveer. The King and the ExCo, consisting of 21 global CEOs, discussed the global sustainability challenges ahead, and the role of business for leading the solutions and investments needed for a net zero, nature-positive and equitable future.
During his speech he addressed to the ExCo, King Willem-Alexander urged: “Sustainable living and sustainable growth have […] become absolute necessities. Strained international relations urge us to prevent wasting natural resources and energy. As multinationals, your responsibility and commitment to this cause are extremely important. Equally important is that you are now tackling it on a wider scale. Not only the emergency situation of our climate. Not only the pollution of our own habitat and the loss of our biodiversity. But also the inhuman working conditions and growing inequality.”
He continued: “Personal leadership is crucial. I want to ask you to take the lead and ensure it’s seen. Make sure you take your entire supply chain and your business partners with you. Step out beyond the walls of the boardroom and head into society itself. The beauty of this era is that the world is welcoming companies that prove that things can be done differently. Each company represents a fundamental choice. Choose ‘business,’ followed by ‘as usual.’ Or, opt for ‘enterprise,’ spurring courage, initiative, innovation, and the creation of a sustainable future. What the world needs now is men and women of enterprise.”
The dinner took place the evening before the ExCo Board Meeting, in which the WBCSD ExCo discussed the progress of the work plans that the almost 250 global businesses that are a member of WBCSD are working on.
2023 is a key year for sustainable development, leading up to the important global stocktaking COP28 in Dubai as of 30 November, and with only less than seven years left till 2030.
Peter Bakker, WBCSD President and CEO, states: “The focus of WBCSD is on creating the building blocks for transformation. This means moving from targets to concrete action plans and the implementation of those, ensuring that corporate accountability becomes the norm. WBCSD is working with the COP28 presidency to mobilize business leadership around the energy transition in the lead-up to COP28, and there are nature positive roadmaps for key sectors in development. Moreover, the Commissioners of the Business Commission to Tackle Inequality (BCTI) will launch its first report in May to provide important insights in a holistic business action response.”
Peter Oosterveer, CEO of Arcadis and member of the Executive Committee of WBCSD, commented: “It was a privilege to have HRH the King as our guest of honor. I was thrilled to hear how his views on challenges we face globally are much aligned with those of Arcadis, where we are committed to our purpose of Improving Quality of Life for all. Really pleased also to hear how he supports the agenda of WBCSD and made an appeal to leaders of enterprises to indeed play a very strong and active role in the transformation that is deeply needed now. Delighted to feel the energy in the room and the shared drive to lead the way and step-up change.”
Since 2012, WBCSD has been led by Dutchman Peter Bakker, former CFO and CEO of TNT. He has received the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the Sustainability Leadership Award – and last week he received the Prix Voltaire International award. Peter serves as a member of several corporate sustainability advisory boards as well as United Nations-related bodies. He received the royal order Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2018 in recognition of his long-lasting commitment to engaging business in tackling global sustainability issues.