Who are they?
The UN Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. By doing so, business, as a primary agent driving globalization, can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere.
Never before have the objectives of the international community and the business world been so aligned. Common goals, such as building markets, combating corruption, safeguarding the environment and ensuring social inclusion, have resulted in unprecedented partnerships and openness among business, government, civil society, labour and the United Nations. Many businesses recognize the need to collaborate with international actors in the current global context where social, political and economic challenges (and opportunities) — whether occurring at home or in other regions — affect companies as never before.
This ever-increasing understanding is reflected in the growth of the Global Compact, which today stands as the largest corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative in the world — with over 7700 corporate participants and stakeholders from over 130 countries.
The Global Compact is a leadership platform, endorsed by Chief Executive Officers, and offering a unique strategic platform for participants to advance their commitments to sustainability and corporate citizenship. Structured as a public-private initiative, the Global Compact is policy framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability principles and practices and offering participants a wide spectrum of specialized workstreams, management tools and resources, and topical programs and projects — all designed to help advance sustainable business models and markets in order to contribute to the initiative’s overarching mission of helping to build a more sustainable and inclusive global economy.
The UN Global Compact has two objectives:
- Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world
- Catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
With these twin and complementary objectives in mind, the Global Compact has shaped an initiative that provides collaborative solutions to the most fundamental challenges facing both business and society. The Global Compact seeks to combine the best properties of the UN, such as moral authority and convening power, with the private sector’s solution-finding strengths, and the expertise and capacities of a range of key stakeholders. The initiative is global and local; private and public; voluntary yet accountable. The Global Compact’s has a unique constellation of participants and stakeholders — bringing companies together with governments, civil society, labour, the United Nations, and other key interests.
The benefits of engagement include the following:
- Adopting an established and globally recognized policy framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of environmental, social, and governance policies and practices.
- Sharing best and emerging practices to advance practical solutions and strategies to common challenges.
- Advancing sustainability solutions in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including UN agencies, governments, civil society, labour, and other non-business interests.
- Linking business units and subsidiaries across the value chain with the Global Compact’s Local Networks around the world — many of these in developing and emerging markets.
- Accessing the United Nations’ extensive knowledge of and experience with sustainability and development issues.
- Utilizing UN Global Compact management tools and resources, and the opportunity to engage in specialized workstreams in the environmental, social and governance realms.
Finally, the Global Compact incorporates a transparency and accountability policy known as the Communication on Progress (COP). The annual posting of a COP is an important demonstration of a participant’s commitment to the UN Global Compact and its principles. Participating companies are required to follow this policy, as a commitment to transparency and disclosure is critical to the success of the initiative. Failure to communicate will result in a change in participant status and possible delisting.
In summary, the Global Compact exists to assist the private sector in the management of increasingly complex risks and opportunities in the environmental, social and governance realms. By partnering with companies in this way, and leveraging the expertise and capacities of a range of other stakeholders, the Global Compact seeks to embed markets and societies with universal principles and values for the benefit of all.