DuPont Chairman and CEO Charles O. Holliday Jr. proposed a challenge to industry on the issue of sustainability by asking the question, "Why should anyone take industry seriously when we talk about sustainability?"
Speaking at The Economic Club of Detroit yesterday, Holliday said that "industry has been talking the sustainability talk for some time now" but global businesses have to take stronger actions to lead the transformation.
He pointed out that the 120 companies that make up the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, of which he will become chairman in January, are working to make sustainability an integral part of their plans and strategies in the next century.
At DuPont, Holliday said, "We have worked hard to make sustainable growth part of our corporate outlook and integral to our corporate plans. We do believe it is the way of the future and we are trying to make it real in the way we operate."
Holliday said that if the needs of a growing world population are satisfied using the unsustainable technologies of 20th century industry, the result will be global deterioration. He observed that a child born in the developed world already has the lifetime environmental impact equal to that of 30 to 50 children born in a poor country. Meanwhile, he said, "In my lifetime the world population has doubled. That's why I believe sustainability must be taken seriously We must do what we can to reduce that multiple while simultaneously raising standards for the world's poor. If we do that right, our businesses will grow too."
However, Holliday cautioned that none of this will happen automatically. "We must make it happen by the way we lead our businesses, by the expectations we set for ourselves, and by the action that we take. Global businesses have the resources to lead this essential global transformation if the commitment is forthcoming. When we do these things, we will have earned the right to be taken seriously when we talk to the world about industry and sustainability, said Holliday."