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World Business Council for Sustainable Development appoints first female chair

Ilham Kadri, CEO of Belgian chemicals firm Solvay, takes over the WBCSD chairmanship from Olam boss Sunny Verghese.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has appointed Ilham Kadri, the French-Moroccan chief executive of Brussels-headquartered chemicals firm Solvay, as its new executive committee chair.

Kadri will lead the organisation — a group of more then 200 multinationals worth US$8.5 trillion in combined revenue working to make business more sustainable — for the next five years. She is WBCSD’s first female chair in its 26-year history, and replaces Sunny Verghese, co-founder and CEO of Olam International, an agri-business, who has held the position since January 2018.

Casablanca-born Kadri, who has a doctorate in physics and chemistry, held senior management positions with hygiene and cleaning firm Diversey, heaters and boilers company A. O. Smith Corporation, and chemicals multinational Dow before joining Solvay in 2019. She takes on the WBCSD chairmanship after a two-year term as co-chair.

She will lead WBCSD’s five-year strategy, which is aligned with targets for its members to reach net zero emissions by 2050, reverse biodiversity loss and end inequality. WBCSD’s members include carbon-intensive firms such as US oil major Chevron, tobacco firm Philip Morris, Danish furniture conglomerate IKEA, and Toyota, a Japanese car manufacturer.

In a statement, Kadri said WBCSD’s members were committed to “real action” on issues that required collective effort. “I look forward to further accelerating the fight against the critical challenges facing our planet and society with the urgency they deserve,” she said.

WBCSD has also appointed executive committee member Piyush Gupta, CEO of Singapore’s DBS Bank, which on Friday committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, as vice chair. Gupta joins a WBCSD vice chair line-up that includes CEO of sustainability consulting firm, ERM Keryn James and Alan Jope, CEO of consumer goods company, Unilever.

Executive committee members approved a third term of five years for the WBCSD president and CEO Peter Bakker, who has performed that role for almost a decade.

New to the executive committee this year are CEO of tyre company, Michelin Florent Menegaux and French utility company ENGIE boss Catherine MacGregor, Ana Botín, CEO of Spanish financial services firm, Santander, has ended her term on the committee.

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