Sunny Verghese chair of WBCSD and CEO of Olam
As co-founder of Olam International, a global agribusiness, Verghese is the first WBCSD chair from the agri-sector. 
Photo courtesy of WBCSD.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer of Olam, has begun his new role as the chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a global CEO-led organization dedicated to accelerating the transition to a sustainable world.

As co-founder of Olam International, a global agribusiness, Verghese is the first WBCSD chair from the agri-sector. He succeeds Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, as WBCSD chair.

The organization noted, Verghese’s priorities align with WBCSD’s model of transforming the major systems of our economy. By connecting business to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) through five key systems – energy and circular economy; cities and mobility; food, land and water; people; and redefining value – this approach simplifies the sometimes-complex world of the SDGs and provides a targeted way for business to catalyze and scale business solutions to sustainability challenges.  

“Creating a sustainable future for all is fundamental to our survival,” Verghese said. “In leading a global agribusiness operating across 70 markets, I’ve seen intimately how each action we take separately as business leaders can impact millions of people, as well as the planet. The potential is even greater when we come together to take collective positive action.”

In addition to being the first chair from the agri-sector, Verghese is also the first Asia-based and Asian CEO to be elected to this position.

In October 2017, Olam received an award recognizing its efforts on addressing climate change, protecting forests and reducing water consumption. The award by CDP, a global benchmarking company, was given to companies who responded to CDP’s questionnaires in 2017 and achieved the best scores. Olam was a joint winner with Charoen Pokphand Foods PCL for Hong Kong and Southeast Asia region.

Olam said it consistently promotes Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) in its indirect supply chains and has significantly improved its carbon and water footprints – respectively 29% and 31% improvement per tonne of product produced in 2016.

“I am humbled to have this opportunity to build on Paul’s ground-breaking work in making WBCSD a catalyst for sustainable business.” Verghese said. “We are now in a unique position to be able to further leverage on the deep cross-sectoral knowledge the council represents. Together, we will work to solve for the complex, interlinked issues the world faces in the priority areas of energy, food and land use, and cities and mobility, at even greater speed and scale.”

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever served as chair of WBCSD for the past four years and supports Verghese new role. 

“I am delighted to welcome Sunny Verghese to the position of WBCSD chair. It has been my honor and privilege to serve as chairman of WBCSD over the past four years, and to see this important institution grow in influence and impact.” Polman said. “Sunny’s extensive global experience complements his critical understanding of the strategic imperative for driving sustainability in business, and I am sure that under his leadership WBCSD will continue to thrive. I wish Sunny and the WBCSD team all the very best.”

Other member companies of WBCSD include Louis Dreyfus Company, Bunge, DuPont, Kellogg, Monsanto and PepsiCo, Inc., among many others. Three percent of the group’s membership includes companies focused on agriculture, while 5% is focused on food and beverages. The largest percentage of companies — 9% — are involved in chemicals. Forty-nine percent of the WBCSD’s membership is made up of European companies, while North America accounts for 20%, Asia 14%, Japan 9%, Latin America 7%, Africa 2% and Middle East 1%.