WBCSD in Atlanta: Serious sustainability topics rinsed down with Coca-Cola

Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa
Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa
Vice President, Environment and Responsibility, UPM
13 January 2015
WBCSD in Atlanta

​“I´m calling for action – and scaling up business solutions for global challenges”, says Peter Bakker, the head of World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) at the Council’s annual meeting in Atlanta on 3 – 6 November. About 400 business and network representatives gathered to Atlanta to study, share and discuss the burning topics of sustainability. This year the highlight was probably the session, where five CEOs shared their initiatives for business solutions from water, waste and recycling perspective. The theme of the meeting was water, and though WBCSD´s working agenda has been quite wide, the participants shared one concern: Oceans have been forgotten. I personally share the concern on oceans, but still one important topic, pretty much today also in public discussion – the plastics in the oceans – was raised up during the meeting. Instead, some really important aspects, such as nutrients, chemicals and other extra elements in the oceans still wait their turn to be handled in these meetings.

Water was chosen the main theme because the meeting was co-sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company whose ‘Plant bottle project’ aims to compensate fossil-based plastic with renewables. And Coca-Cola’s home base, again, is Atlanta.

Forest solutions group is committed to measure performance

Another highlight was naturally the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group´s (FSG) meeting. FSG – the most on the ground and action-oriented group according to Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever and chairman of WBCSD – has also gone through turbulent times. The group has 14 leading pulp, paper and bio-product companies and 10 associate members. It enhances sustainable forest management and has quite lately initiated a set of key performance indicators to measure progress in sustainability. The aim is that all members commit to sustainable development and through the commonly agreed indicators demonstrate concrete performance. The FSG Group is committed to grow the number of sustainably managed forests globally, and this commitment was communicated in Atlanta. In addition, the whole working agenda has been revised based on the Action 2020 strategy – and more results are expected to come.

The most recent outcome of the WBCSD group, the new Infographic on Forests – highlights the importance of all forests, i.e. the so called Forest Continuum. The infographic has been actively used and shared, for example in social media. Another outcome is a publication on carbon neutrality which establishes a framework for understanding the carbon neutrality of biomass and distills and synthesizes the complexity of the debate. The publication also aims to underline the importance of carbon neutrality in public policies to address climate change and advance sustainable forest management.

The Forest Solutions Group has activated its work and focuses now on four main areas:

  • sustainable forest management
  • the forest dialogue
  • sustainable value chains and procurement
  • values and benefits of forest products

The FSG governance model has also been revised, and Matthew Reddy, the new lead from Australia, will empower the work together with Uta Jungermann, female energy in the role of FSG Manager. The new FSG Steering Group consisting from work stream chairs and co-chairs, so representatives from 10 companies, are just to start the first meeting in Helsinki hosted by UPM.

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Forest Solution Group´s co-chairs with the WBCSD’s Uta and Matthew.

WBCSD has transformed to action-oriented group of companies

The whole WBCSD organization has lately gone through an enormous change. Everything is now based on a strategy called Action2020. And it´s not just the strategy that has changed, but also the organization structure. Many members have been eager to support the new way, some are still waiting how to operate under it. The coming years will show, if the voice of industry can be empowered by the Action2020. In every case, the pressure to show the business case inside the companies has not lowered during the economic depression.Created by the WBCSD and its member companies, Action2020 is a platform for sustainability in action. It’s a roadmap for businesses to influence on environmental and social trends positively, and at the same time strengthen their own resilience to issues like climate change, demographic dynamics and skills shortages. Based on the latest scientific consensus, Action2020 sets an agenda for businesses to take actions on sustainable development by the 2020 and beyond. One focus area – also in Atlanta- is called “the Road to Paris” climate negotiations during December 2015. The target is to find concrete mitigation measures to climate change of by limiting the global temperature rise to 2 C above pre-industrial levels.Above all interesting and important topics, the participants experienced the World of Coke, studied the history of its business success and tasted the world’s most famous drink in all kinds of flavor and in all possible combinations and places.  I ate Coca-Cola crystallized salmon- and enjoyed it!

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Water was the main theme of the meeting. There is a great aquarium near by the Coca-Cola headquarters, where you feel like being in the middle of the Ocean. I can warmly recommend this experience to all!

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