July 22, 2024

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has opened an office in the heart of downtown Chicago, the second U.S. location for the council.

The office, on the 21st floor of 1 S. Dearborn St., is part of the council’s “strategic expansion” in the U.S.,  the council said in a news release. The space will serve as the council’s Midwestern hub to engage with businesses, government agencies, civil society organizations and academic institutions in and around the area.

Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the council, said the work used to be about educating companies on climate change and its importance, but “in today’s world, it’s really about how to make these changes” to actually fight climate change.

“Our engagement is much more practical now than it was in the past,” Bakker said. “We’re talking about how to decarbonize supply chain and operations, the products coming to the market. That also means we need to be closer to these companies than we were before.”

The council, which will mark its 30th anniversary in 2025, works with entities to create a more sustainable planet by planning out how companies and other organizations can become carbon-neutral, and further, carbon-positive, as well as more equitable. The council operates with a membership model and currently works with about 240 companies around the globe, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft.

The council’s head office is in Geneva, Switzerland, and it also has offices in other major cities  like Amsterdam, Singapore, Beijing and London. The council employs around 250 people around the world.

The Chicago office employs three people, with plans to expand in the next year or so, said Holly Crilly, the council’s director for key accounts for North America and head of the Chicago office.

Crilly said she is looking forward to “getting close to the members and making sure we’re driving their goals.”

“They’ve got really big agendas, as you can imagine, and I think there’s a lot that we need to do together,” Crilly said. “I’m also really excited because there’s a really big opportunity to convene the sustainability community in Chicago.”

The council’s North American headquarters, which are in New York City, opened about 15 years ago. Chicago was chosen as the next U.S. location after a six-month search process, according to the council. Bakker said about 30% of the council’s U.S.-based members are headquartered in or around Chicago, including McDonald’s, ADM and Spencer Stuart.

Chicago was chosen by the council because of the city’s reputation for having a vibrant business community and strong commitment to progressive causes, the council said.

Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement he and his team “applaud” the decision to come to Chicago.

“The World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s commitment to advancing sustainable development is more critical now than ever, and I look forward to our continued partnership with our city’s re-established Department of Environment to further work around equity, sustainability, and climate change,” Johnson said in the statement.

President and CEO of World Business Chicago Phil Clement said the council’s move to Chicago “leverages our city and region’s strong access to talent, deep commitment to sustainability, and extensive network of business interests.”

“We look forward to continuing to support initiatives and collaborations that drive sustainable development and foster innovation in Chicago and beyond,” Clement said.

Bakker said for a company to work with the council, it has to meet certain criteria, like having a plan to cut emissions by half by 2030 and operating under “high levels of transparency.”

“We hold companies accountable, and we help them through many projects that we run with and for those companies to get them on the track to sustainability and develop standards and protocols to solidify the transformation,” Bakker said.

The Chicago office will have a focus on working closely with businesses not only in the U.S. but also Canada, Mexico and Brazil, according to the council. The new office will provide resources, expertise and platforms for collaboration to help companies gain competitive advantages and find new opportunities in the market in ways that are also inclusive and equitable.

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