The role of business in enhancing the prosperity of humankind. (Part 2of 4)

26 min readDec 20, 2023


After reading the introduction, the first part of the publication written all the way back in 2000 and still so incredibly timely today over 20 years later, we offer you the 2nd episode written by then CEO of Dupont Bill Walker.

The ideas shared in this article are ideally suited to help us explore the theme of ebbf 2024 annual conference’s theme:

“I am very pleased to be here today at this ebbf Annual Conference to speak on the interesting but complex theme, “The Role of Business in Enhancing the Prosperity of Humankind”. I must confess that as Managing Director in a large, multinational company here in Europe, most of my career has been dedicated to increasing profits and the return to our shareholders.
I recognize that many people describe our motives differently, something like “ increasing the wealth of the privileged few”. But my company has not yet changed its mission to one of “spreading the wealth to the global masses.” In fact, if I were to do that, you can imagine just how long I might remain in my current job.

So, in a sense, inviting me here today to speak on “The Role of Business in Enhancing the Prosperity of Humankind” may seem to be analogous to inviting the fox into the hen house to speak on hen house safety. But I hope we will be able to reconcile some of these apparent dichotomies during my talk this morning.

Today I speak to you as a businessman but also as a member of the ebbf and as a Bahá’í. As many of you know, Bahá’ís believe that humankind is now passing through a turbulent era and that these disturbances are signs of humanity’s struggle toward a new age in its collective development. It is a necessary cleansing process which will eventually weld our society into a single, organic, indivisible, world embracing community.

In this perspective, it is obvious that the two subjects of peace and prosperity are inexorably linked. The eradication of poverty, the elimination of economic discrimination based on sex, race or religion, the just sharing of the world’s resources by all the world’s inhabitants, and the elimination of the inordinate disparity between the world’s richest and poorest, are the same and necessary prerequisites for the establishment of a lasting global prosperity and for achieving a lasting world peace.

My presentation today is based upon a statement entitled The Prosperity of Humankind. This very important and interesting work was developed by the Bahá’í Inter-national Community as input for the World Summit for Social Development, sponsored by the United Nations and held in Copenhagen in March of 1995. This was on the 50th anniversary of the UN itself and the third of five UN sponsored summits at that time.

While current news focuses on a few events like efforts for peace in the Middle East, for the first time in human history, there is a growing undercurrent of activity carried on by the community of nations trying to deal with world problems on a global basis.

There is a very interesting story in connection with the Social Summit in Copenhagen which illustrates that individuals, however humble their origins, can have an impact in shaping world affairs and on peace and prosperity. The story is about Jaime Duhart who was Vice Rector of the Universidad Boliviano in Santiago, Chile, a non-profit, private university. The Rector of the University was Francisco Villo.

The former President of Chile, Patricio Erwin, who had a close relationship with the University, was the person who first proposed the idea of a summit for social development before he left office in 1993.

When the idea was accepted, he wrote to all of the universities and NGOs in Chile requesting their comments on a paper that he himself had prepared summarizing his own views on the subject. The Rector of the University passed the paper on to Jaime who responded, drawing his comments from the Bahá’í teachings on social development and from another statement, The Promise of World Peace. The Rector liked Jaime’s comments and forwarded them to the President. Because of the quality of Jaime’s commentary, the President requested his involvement in the preparatory sessions for the Summit. Jaime played an active role in four two-week preparatory sessions and was invited to read a summary derived from The Prosperity of Humankind statement to the plenary session of the Summit. Over 2,400 NGOs attended the summit but only four were selected to make presentations on the opening day. One of these was the paper presented by Professor Duhart.

The reason that I have gone into such detail on the contribution of Jaime Duhart is to demonstrate the potential impact that a single person can have in shaping world affairs. Jaime Duhart is neither a recognized world leader nor a particularly powerful speaker. But he was willing to get involved and to share his beliefs and ideas with others. I consider him a role model for all of us.

The main objective of the Social Summit was to get governments from all over the world to agree on the issues and a set of common principles to deal with problems of poverty, job creation and the social integration of the world’s communities. This was the first time that governments had agreed to sit down and talk about these issues, a task made more difficult by differences in culture and in the stages of development of the many countries involved. Juan Somavia, then Chilean Ambassador to the UN and presently Director General of the International Labour Organization, chaired the main summit which was opened by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then Secretary General of the United Nations. Over 160 heads of state attended, of which more than 115 eventually ratified the final document.

At the NGO Forum which occurred simultaneously with the main summit, nearly 10,000 NGO representatives attended and more than 120,000 people visited the stands each day. Thousands of copies of The Prosperity of Humankind were distributed. Members of the ebbf delegation to the Copenhagen Summit organized and led six workshops on themes relevant to social and economic development such as “Emerging Values for a Global Economy,” “Encouraging Women Entrepreneurs,” and “Basic Values for a Prosperous World.”

The final declaration and program of action developed at the Summit called for a more compassionate and people centered approach to economic development world-wide. It stressed the need to empower women and marginalåized groups everywhere and asked for industrialized countries to devote more to the needy, whether at home or abroad. The Summit’s final documents also urged governments to bring communities and private enterprise into a stronger partnership, affirming the importance of involving people at the grassroots level in formulating local and regional development policies. They stated that human rights, democracy, freedom, and spiritual and moral values are essential foundations for social and economic development.

Of course, many criticized this document, saying that the language was too lofty or that governments failed to include means for enforcing the agreements and specific monetary commitments to finance initiatives. I prefer the view of Heydar Aliyev, the President of the Azerbaijan Republic who said, “This is the first time in history that heads of state and governments are assembled in a forumÊ aimed at pursuing a co-ordinated policy to achieve social welfare for all the people of the world. This very fact bears witness that mankind is entering into a new and higher phase of development after the end of the ‘Cold War’.

I would like to dedicate the remainder of this presentation to some practical examples which illustrate how the key principles contained in The Prosperity of Humankind might be applied in the real world of business. Let me preface this by saying that I know of no company today which consistently applies either the core values of ebbf or the principles presented in this statement. However, enough examples exist from different companies and industries to demonstrate that when applied they do work.

In The Prosperity of Humankind we find that “a culture which attaches absolute value to expansion, acquisition, and to the satisfaction of people’s wants as opposed to their real needs cannot ultimately succeed.” And it goes on to say that “unless the d˜evelopment of society finds a purpose beyond the mere amelioration of material conditions, it will fail of attaining even these goals.” Certainly, providing for people’s basic needs, whether it be housing, food, health care or education, is very important. No one would deny that. And successful businesses must be profitable in order to sustain their business. But “the most important role that economic efforts must play should be developmental, cultivating the limitless potential latent in all members of the human race.” Further, “…however long the process and whatever the setbacks, the governance of human affairs can be conducted along lines that serve humanity’s real needs.”

Unfortunately, the assumptions driving most businesses today are not developmental but still essentially materialistic. When I began my own career 30 years ago, businesses were principally focused on satisfying customer needs. During the late 80’s and early 90’s we saw a migration to the four stakeholder model, the four being the stockholders, the customers, the employees and the communities in which the company operates. This model provided a more balanced perspective from which to direct actions and planning.

More recently, consultants and business schools have been successful in convincing the business community that the only relevant stakeholder for publicly owned companies is the shareholder. As a result, driving ever-increasing shareholder value has become an obsession. In reality, share price and market capitalization are unpredictable measures of business success. Daily, we see highly volatile and fickle stock markets where interest rate trends, comments by financial analysts, and swings in investor sentiment are often far more powerful factors impacting share price than the real performance of a company. Efforts companies make to support their share price in an unstable market often lead to short-term thinking and decisions. Even worse, frequent changes in direction resulting from efforts to respond to fluctuations in share price confuse employees and waste energy and resources of the organization.

I still do not know of any companies which have moved very far toward the model of serving the real needs of humanity, trusting that share price will ultimately follow performance, but I am beginning to see a growing recognition that ultimate success and sustainable growth must come from better meeting humanity’s real needs. My own company, DuPont, ran a brand campaign that reflects a focus on meeting humanity’s real needs. The campaign features a “To Do List for the Planet.” It included many needs, such as finding new foods which help prevent osteoporosis, finding new medicines that help fight HIV, growing food in areas of the world where soil conditions are poor, generating fresh water from salt water and the need for new and better fibers to help protect against cold for those who must live and work in extreme conditions. For some of these, we can say, “We’ve Done That.” However, in others, we do not at the moment have a way to meet the need, but are working on it. The campaign signals the intent to play a broader role in meeting important needs for all of the world’s population.

To reach the ideal laid down in The Prosperity of Humankind, the behavioral shift that will be required is for economic planning to become more focused on serving the real needs including developmental needs of society. For both individuals and companies, understanding this principle may influence decisions about the t+ype of work that we do and even where we decide to invest money. We can also try to influence government policy and the types of endeavors they support with public funds. A quote from Leo Tolstoy says it all to me, “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”

The “Prosperity” statement also asserts that “…the world is in urgent need of a new work ethic.” One of the core values of ebbf is the need for a new paradigm of work which focuses on developing human potential and practicing values in the workplace. At a very practical level, my first recommendation to business leaders is to have a ‘Work Ethic’ or ‘Business Conduct Guide’ that is written down and understood by all employees. This work ethic must be audited regularly to ensure that these principles are practiced. Most large companies have such codes and procedures. A KPMG survey of 1,000 companies found that 86 percent had some version of an ethics code, but unfortunately only 42 percent of those with a code had designated anyone to be responsible for ethics. I have seen copies of ethics guides from many businesses. The standards are admittedly different, and some are better than others. However, I have seen none written down that were not defendable. Many smaller businesses may not have written ethics codes forcing employees to try to apply the perceived standards of the boss. In my experience unwritten standards can never be uniformly understood.

But ebbf aspires to an even higher standard than simply having clearly understood codes of conduct. Understanding that work done “in the spirit of service to humanity as equivalent to worship” can be a powerful motivating force to produce higher quality results. Each of us has the intrinsic need to feel that we are contributing to a meaningful vision and working toward some higher purpose. Such a vision embracing our work is an element missing in many workplaces today.

I had an interesting experience when working in Northern Spain in an area of high unemployment due to the decline of the steel and coal industries. DuPont invested a billion dollars there to build a new industrial complex on a greenfield site. I found the workers to be extremely motivated. They were willing to work long hours voluntarily in order to complete the projects on time and budget. They felt if they did the project well it would reflect positively on the capabilities of the As∑turian people and attract other businesses to the region. They were working with a spirit of service to their community. The first plant that we built produced a meta-aramid fiber resistant to high temperatures and used to make firemen’s uniforms. We liked to say, “Nomex Saves Lives”. Employees are far more motivated when they feel that they are producing something that satisfies more than their own materialistic needs. Most products made by DuPont today are designed to make people safer, healthier, happier, and more comfortable or to improve their quality of life in some way. It is important for managers to help employees make that important link.

Consultation is another core value of ebbf. It is closely linked to “ the new work ethic.” It helps us make better decisions by including those most impacted in the decision making process. Consultation gives employees greater understanding and ownership for decisions. Perhaps there are n”o perfect decisions but many good decisions are not implemented because they are not supported by those most directly affected. This failure can be avoided if those involved are properly consulted. This is a complex topic that deserves much more study, however, the concept of consultation and reconciliation is very different from the adversarial attitudes and compromise with which most people are familiar. The behavioral shifts required to create this new work culture are from 1) adversarial to consultative, 2) a culture of protest and conflict to one of co-operation and, 3) a culture of negotiation and compromise to one of creative reconciliation.

Another important focus area in which we receive direction from The Prosperity of Humankind is in the distribution and use of resources. To quote, “Concern for justice . . . ensures that limited resources are not diverted to the pursuit of projects extraneous to a community’s essential social or economic priorities. Onl€y development programs that are perceived as meeting their needs and as being just and equitable in objective can hope to engage the commitment of the masses of humanity, upon whom implementation depends.” In other words, business and industry have a moral obligation . . . to not waste but rather to use wealth and limited resources in ways that serve the advancement of civilization.

To some degree natural economic systems drive economic activity and resources toward underdeveloped regions to expand markets and in search of lower labor costs. The latest statistics that I have show that private companies invested $252 billion in the developing world in 1997, up from $44 billion in 1990. But market factors have not been fully effective on their own. Policy, which supports natural economic forces, will be necessary to achieve a more balanced sharing of the world’s resources. Achievement of this ideal will require a shift in the behavior and mind set of world leaders away frÕom resource exploitation for short term profits toward one of long term sustainable development and a more just and equitable use of resources for benefit of all humanity.

In a recent speech in Berlin, Go Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization, pointed out that, of the 6 billion human beings in the world, 1.3 billion live on less than a dollar a day. Half, some 3 billion, live on less than two dollars a day. Of the 6 billion people in the world, industries’ products and services are accessible to only one billion. The rest have no meaningful access to the global market economy. Industry would very much like to tap the growth potential represented by the roughly 80 per cent of the people who cannot today buy our products. But, what would happen if those 3 billion people living on 2 dollars a day suddenly had 5 dollars, or 10 dollars a day? One answer is that it would be great for them and good for business. Another is that it would be tÍerrible for the environment if all it did were to multiply the present way we manufacture, consume and dispose of goods. A child born in the developed world already has a lifetime environmental impact equivalent to 30 to 50 children born in a poor country. Even in my lifetime, the world population has doubled. That is why I believe sustainability must be taken seriously. We must reduce that multiple, while simultaneously raising standards for the world’s poor.

Sustainable development is another core value of ebbf and an area in which there has been a dramatic shift over the past several years. This concept has now become policy for many of the world’s largest industries and for some companies an important element of strategy. It is not enough to just talk about sustainability; first, we need a shared vision of just what sustainability means in practical terms. The President’s Council on Sustainable Development and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development have done good wo)rk in this area. However, their documents are too cumbersome and lengthy. We need a vibrant vision that people can immediately grasp, one which can inspire and create the will for change. That’s the one thing missing from current discussions of sustainability: How to create the will for change and a sense of urgency in societies around the world? Industry has the incentive in the opportunities I have spoken of. But we need a genuine inspiration for society at large.

A company’s “environmental footprint” can be defined as the amount of depletable raw materials and non-renewable energy it consumes to make its products, and the quantity of waste and emissions that are generated in the process. Traditionally, for a company to grow, the footprint had to get larger. Today, environmentally responsible coÿmpanies are looking for ways to grow while reducing the size of the footprint. This is sustainable growth, growth that does not depend on consuming ever-increasing amounts of finite resources. One of the greatest wastes we have as a modern society is the burning of fossil fuels for energy. When petroleum is used as a feedstock for plastics, fibers, or polymers, we at least have the possibility to reclaim or recycle them but materials we burn are gone forever.

Setting goals is important. Last year, my company set two major goals to achieve in this area by the year 2010. The first is to source 10 per cent of our total global energy needs from renewable energy. The second is to derive 25 per cent of our revenues from non-depletable resources. Both goals are very ambitious, but I believe achievable and strongly signal our intent in this critical arena.

If sustainability is to be achieved, industry will have to rethink virtually all of its industrial processes, products and services. We have to devise new ways to protect the environment while also building a competitive advantage. For a sustainable practice to succeed, it has to be good for the environment, good for people, and good for business.

Successes like these are the result of programs of action specific to each site. They are relatively small and local. Major environmental damage is the result of the cumulative effect of countless environmentally unsound practices. Real sustainability will only result from the collective impact of better decisions and new practices that are sustainable. The process will not be neat and organized. And it will only happen when companies and governments set ambitious goals and then empower people to make change in their own plants and communities. The new word “glocal” is very appropriate in this arena. Companies must set global goals that empower their employees to take local action.

The globalization of business and communication is happening at a rapid and ever advancing pace but political co-operation and policy decision making is still far behind. While many of us, including myself, may not value a McDonalds or Pizza Hut on every corner, the economic driver provided by the globalization of business does create the need for global ethical standards, international laws, sharing of technology, a world auxiliary language, a≥nd many other elements necessary for eventual world unity and peace . . . and for global prosperity. The common thread throughout The Prosperity of Humankind is that an essential ingredient for global prosperity is more equitable access to and distribution of global resources. This applies to knowledge and intellectual property as well as to material resources.

Universal education based on the individual’s capacity to learn and willingness to apply learning to the reshaping of human affairs is stressed as indispensable to the achievement of a prosperous world. The Internet has made the universal availability of knowledge a practical target; however, the cost of computers and training is still prohibitive for most in the developing world. While opening the door for the possibility of universal access to knowledge, computer technology has so far actually widened the gap between the haves and have-nots of our world.

But the world is changing. I recently noticed a report in USA Today that Microsoft and Intel have partnered to train 400,000 teachers in twenty countries in how to use computer technology and incorporate the technology into their classroom lessons. The article stated that Microsoft is donating $344 million in software, the largest donation in the company’s history. Over a three-year period, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Premio Computers will contribute almost $500 million in cash, equipment, and services to Intel’s “Teach to the Future” project. The goal of the program is to establish twenty regional training centers in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The behavioral shift required is from the belief that knowledge is power and as such must be guarded, to a belief that expanded access to information and knowledge is necessary for the development of our society and therefore good for business.

The next principle demands that all people have a right not only to the p·roducts of science and technology but also to participate in the development of such technology. This insures that people everywhere benefit not only materially but also intellectually from research and development. Technology is improved by including a broader diversity of perspective and insures that technological advance is consistent with the real needs of the community. Governments recognize and value having research done locally and many are willing to subsidize such research, linking it to industrial development and job creation. Doing expensive research in lower cost regions also makes good business sense. India, which has many highly educated and qualified professionals, is an example of attracting research and labor intensive production design work, which can be done there more competitively. Computers and enhanced global communications mean that often work can be done virtually anywhere in the world without loss of time or efficiency.

How we exercise authority in an áorganization has also changed dramatically over the last few years. To quote from The Prosperity of Humankind, “ In its traditional, competitive expression, power is as irrelevant to the needs of humanity’s future as would be the technologies of railway locomotion to lifting space satellites into orbit.” A significant change in leadership style for business, political and other societal leaders is already evident. Respect for position is rapidly being replaced by respect for expertise, hard work, and service. In today’s modern organizations everyone is expected to lead and should be given opportunities to lead. People are valued as much for their minds as for their hands and backs. Tasks previously considered menial are shared. An example is typing, which in most organizations has become almost obsolete. Everyone does his own typing on the computer. Most mail has become electronic.

I ran an interesting experiment for five years in the plant that I opened and managed in Spain. From the beginning I simply prohibited hierarchical organization charts and titles. I have found traditional organization charts neither a good description of the work that people do nor motivating to employees, except of course the few at the top who issue the charts. I applied the guidelines to myself as well. For example, my business card contained all the necessary information, my name, company logo, telephone numbers, fax and address, but it did not contain a title. In five years I never found this a hindrance in my ability to do business. It did, however, always create interesting discussion and an opportunity to reflect to others the uniqueness of the work culture we were trying to create. The behavioral transformation required is from the exercise of power of authority to the power from truth, influence, example, unity, and collective endeavor. This transition is already hˇappening in many places.

Yet another of the core values promoted by ebbf is the partnership of women and men. The principle of the equality of men and women is transforming relationships both within the home and in the workplace. Contrary to legislative efforts to provide equal opportunity based on principles of fairness, the ebbf premise is that equal opportunity for women and minorities is essential to the advancement of civilization and to the achievement of excellence in business. The focus is not on achieving numerical goals but rather on including full and balanced perspectives, which can only come from a diverse workforce. While numbers should not be our primary objective they do show that there has been progress. For the first time in history, women age 25 to 35 in the United States have more education than men. In 1998 women held 46 percent of executive, administrative, and managerial positions, up from 34 percent in 1983; 72 percent of companies now have women members on their boards of directors˙, up from 11 percent in 1973. Women are starting new businesses at twice the rate of men.

Ernst & Young reports that Employee Work-Life programs improve morale and productivity and reduce costs by helping to curb employee turnover. Their efforts implementing a program aimed at achieving work-life balance among their 34,000 employees have decreased employee turnover by 20 percent. The program allows each office to create its own solutions. Some initiatives include discouraging employees from checking messages on weekends and holidays, allowing for flexible work schedules, and creating a committee to manage employee workloads. One of their managing partners, asserts, “You simply have to lead by example, employees will not refrain from checking messages on weekends if their managers continue to do so.” I have had a lot of personal experience with work-life programs over the past 5 years, all of it positive, and while there was a lot of fear and concern in the beginning, today I can say that none of the feôar was justified.

As the magnitude, complexity and urgency of environmental problems become more apparent, existing international legislation and processes are proving inadequate, principally because they are based on laws governing individual countries while air, water and other environmental resources are shared and know no boundaries. To quote from The Prosperity of Humankind, which focuses specifically on the economic nature of the crises, “A challenge of similar nature faces economic thinking as a result of the environmental crisis. The fallacies in theories based on the belief that there is no limit to nature’s capacity to fulfill any demand made on it by human beings have now been coldly exposed”.

Globalization is increasing competition and placing ever-increasing demands on manufacturing costs. Everyone is aware of the recent sharp increases in prices of raw materials especially those coming from∆ depletable sources such as petroleum and wood. These economic realities are forcing companies to improve yields, recycle more and find less expensive sources for raw materials. As examples:

• In the company which I manage in Luxembourg, all of our product wastes are recycled. In fact, we are getting so good at it that our capability to use recycle is now greater than the waste we generate internally and we are now seeking external sources of recycle as low cost feedstock. We also invented a new process for recycling wastewater reducing water consumption and demand on local wastewater treatment facilities. We have offered to share this technology with other industries.

• A large nylon manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee where I used to work, reduced both the generation of waste and the subsequent need to dispose of or treat waste, by radically improving plant yields. That plant now has a 99.8% yield, which leaves only 0.2% waste. The rema≈ining waste can now be treated in the city treatment facilities, allowing the site to shut down its own wastewater treatment operations. The plant saves $250,000 per year in operating costs and eliminated the need to spend up to $20 million to upgrade the waste treatment facility.

A widely held belief is that industrial activity must by its very definition be negative for the environment and that at best the community is forced to compromise the environment to provide jobs and wealth to its citizens. My belief is very different from that. Most land today is no longer in the public domain, used only for parks or protected conservation areas, but rather in private hands, which includes properties developed for industrial use. For that reason, if society wishes to solve the problem, individuals and industry must be part of the solution. My experience is that industrial development can be managed in a way that is not only non-detrimental but there are m — any examples of industrial land managed to enhance biodiversity and these are the positive examples that I would like to mention today. While my comments focus principally on the example of the greenfield site that I was involved in developing in Northern Spain, I have also sponsored and supported similar initiatives in Northern Ireland, England, and am now beginning a smaller project in Luxembourg.

We all know that animal and plant species are becoming extinct at unprecedented rates. Although considerable attention is rightly focussed on the deforestation and destruction of ecosystems in places like the Brazilian rain forest, other regions of the world are also fast losing their traditional range and depth of species. In Ireland and Spain native forests have been drastically depleted through over-harvesting and population pressures. In the 1950s and ’60s, the Spanish government sponsored a program to reforest the country using fast-growing eucalyptus. But eu∂calyptus do not provide food for local wildlife and can crowd out remaining native trees, such as oak and chestnut, and drain the soil of its nutrients. In the Asturias region of northern Spain, in 1990, I felt that we had an opportunity to reverse the spiral of wildlife decline while at the same time demonstrating the compatibility of industry and the environment. Let me clarify by explaining that most large industries do not fully develop all the land that they own. Industry likes and often needs a buffer with the community and this can represent 50% or more of a typical industrial site. What we did in Spain was to decide to develop the buffer as a wildlife habitat rather than let it sit idle.

The Asturias facility is located on 320 hectares of land in a rolling valley. The areas between and around these production units have, however, been dedicated to wildlife, amounting to about half the total area of the facility. Working in co»llaboration with the authorities, the local community, Spanish conservationists, and an innovative U.S.-based wildlife concern, the Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Council (WHC), we designed the industrial facility in such a way that biodiversity would increase rather than decrease. This lush green valley had previously been used as farmland and the surrounding hills to grow eucalyptus as a cash crop for paper pulp and mining props. What many don’t know is that while farmland may be beautiful and green it is not typically bio-diverse.

Du Pont has made promoting wildlife in and around its facilities one of its key environmental commitments. In 1988 it was one of the founding corporate members of WHC, whose mission is to promote the use of extensive areas of corporate land for the benefit of wildlife. I quote former WHC director Joyce Kelly who said “thoughtful and co-operative projects can transform these areas into wildlife havens, thus protecting a cruci al link in the chain of global biodiversity”.

Through WHC, more than 66,000 hectares are now being managed for wildlife in the United States at 140 corporate sites. WHC has now expanded its activities to Europe, Australia, and Latin America. I have personally been involved in three projects here in Europe. At the Asturias facility, this meant working closely with faculty and students from the University of Oviedo, and a local conservation group, Associacion Asturiana de Amigos de la Naturaleza (ANA). We all collaborated in the development of a comprehensive management plan to enhance the area for wildlife, and preserve local history and culture.

The first challenge for the project was to halt the clear cutting of land being purchased from local farmers. The compensation schedule arranged by the Spanish government had allowed the farmers to remove the trees before handing over the land. This process threatened to destroy the few remaining native trees an‰d exposed erodible soil to wind and rain. Instead we paid to have the eucalyptus removed in a more environmentally friendly way. This allowed the small stands of oak, birch, buckhorn, and chestnut, as well as shrubs such as the strawberry tree and bayleaf, whose growth had been previously stunted by the invasive eucalyptus to re-emerge to provide food, cover, and nesting cavities for a range of native animal and bird species. The reforestation had to be supplemented by additional plantings of native varieties that were provided by the forestry service free of charge. This work took over a year to complete but today the forest is one of the most beautiful and diverse in Spain and it is on industrial land. The project went further than simple reforestation. A wetland that had been drained by the farmers was restored on the property. As Spain is on a migratory flyway for birds returning south from Iceland, Greenland, and the Soviet Arctic, the development of the wetland provides a r≥esting or wintering area for numerous species of waterfowl. Local schools and the community were involved in projects such as the development of a nature trail and a nesting box program.

Finally, the facility uses state-of-the-art clean technology. Fifteen percent of the total investment is devoted to pollution control measures. Wild ponies, called Asturcones, a breed genetically unique to the region and almost extinct, now graze in the fields in front of the industrial plant. Today, in Asturias, many environmentalists come to an industrial facility to see wildlife and birds that are rarely seen in the wild. The project became not only a model for Spain but was selected as a model for Europe by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) who published the case study for the Asturias facility in 1993 in its book Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment. WBCSD is a prestigioOus coalition of some 120 leading international companies dedicated to making a difference through the adoption and promotion of corporate sustainable development thinking.

As I have said, this is only one example, but I have been personally involved in leading others and hope that these projects will serve as models for other companies in Europe. Projects like this focus on involving employees and the community in worthwhile environmental efforts while demonstrating that balance can be achieved between a healthy environment and a healthy business.

In summary, I have presented some of the core values and concepts related to business contained in the statement, The Prosperity of Humankind. These principles are also those promoted by EBBF. I have tried to give you some practical examples to demonstrate that if applied these principles jcan work and are conducive to business success. What should also be obvious is that circumstances, needs and cultures differ around the world and business environments are diverse. To be successful applying the principles in your own environment will require creativity, flexibility and hard work. This statement as well as writings of the Bahá’í Faith have been sound guides for my own personal behavior in the business world. I hope this taste that I have given you today encourages you to study The Prosperity of Humankind and that you find practical ways to apply them to your work and everyday life.


1. Stephan Schmidheiny with the Business Council for Sustainable Development: Changing Course, A Global Perspective on Development and the Environment, Case 13.2 “The Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Council: Industry in Harmony with Nature”, MIT Press, London England, 1992, p. 234–238.

2. Extract of a talk given recently by DuPont Chairman and CEO, Chad Holliday, serving this year (2000) as Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable development.

3. Talk on Environmentalism by Gary Pfeiffer, DuPont Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, at T

he Nature Conservancy’s International Leadership Council Meeting, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

4. Remarks by DuPont Chairman Ed Woolard to the Alliance for Global Sustainability, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 24, 1997




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