Multinationals leaders of sustainability in Davos

During the World Economic Forum in Davos, the CEOs of five Dutch multinational corporations, members of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, assumed a leading role in the field of sustainability. They take the view that particularly this time of economic insecurity is potentially the best time to promote economic growth. Corporations have an important role to play in this respect, according to the DSGC.

The notion of the circular economy – an economic system aimed at maximum reuse of raw materials and products and minimum loss of value – was the key subject of an important discussion in Davos. Jean-François van Boxmeer, CEO of Heineken, emphasized that ‘it is important to share successes both within chains and with competitors, and to learn from them’. He argued that it is necessary to increase and improve cooperation in order to be able to expand the current sustainability programmes.

More than profits alone
Companies should furthermore understand that it is their responsibility to create value on more levels than profits alone, according to Feike Sijbesma. The CEO of DSM added that the principles of People, Planet and Profit should be the three primary objectives. ‘This will require new valuation models to ensure that the value creation is measurable and demonstrable.’ ‘In addition, we must learn to do more with less. This will require a shift in the way we think and a change in how we treat our planet and natural resources,’ according to Sijbesma. 

Redefinition of growth 
‘It is our task to rethink our definition of growth in order to achieve real sustainability, so that 9 billion people can live together in peace by 2050. As it is today, 1 billion consumers use 40 to 50 per cent of the Earth’s natural resources. This situation is untenable. We do not have a second planet,’ as Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, argued last week. He regards the DSGC as an important platform for the development (and upscaling) of initiatives that prioritize sustainable growth. During the World Economic Forum, the attending members of the DSGC also shared sustainable business models, developed by the coalition, with successful entrepreneurs, scientists and politicians.