Home CATEGORIES Business Ethics & Philanthropy United Nations Global Compact The global umbrella of CSR
“‘Proving that principles and profits go hand in hand, I propose that the business leaders and the United Nations initiate a global compact of shared values and principles that will give a human face to the global market.
– Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General (1997 – 2006)
Origin of Global Compact
The seeds of the Global Compact were sown on 31 January 1999 by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he announced the formation of the Global Compact, at the World Economic Forum. It was officially launched at UN headquarters on 26 July 2000. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) office works based on a mandate set out by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), as an organization that ‘promotes responsible business practices and UN values among the global business community and the UN system’. UNGC was established as the global level network for CSR, in pursuit of supporting the UN goals – the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000-2015), and later, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, 2015 – 2030).
United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary initiative of the ‘global business majors’, under a pact with the UN in July 2000. It is based on the commitment of CEOs of companies, who used this as a platform to implement universal sustainability principles. It offers a framework for Businesses to do responsible business and is used as a forum for the United Nations and Global Compact(GC) to work together. Headquartered in New York, UNGC operates as a global agency and through local networks from participating countries. Besides the businesses, labour groups and civil society organizations also command a stake in shaping up responsible business, across both the developed and developing regions.
GC is a non-binding UN Pact to get businesses and firms worldwide to promote sustainable and responsible business practices and socially responsible policies. Its primary task is to evolve frameworks and design mechanisms for making the businesses both sustainable and socially responsible, and to report on their implementation. Endorsed by Chief Executives, the Global Compact is a practical framework for the development implementation, and disclosure of sustainability policies and practices, committing businesses to sustainability, and shared responsibility for achieving a better world.
Ms.Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General, UNGC claims that the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest voluntary Corporate Sustainability initiative in the world. With more than over 16,000 corporate participants and stake holders, and 3,800 non-business signatories, from over 160 countries, engaged through 69 country networks, UNGC is also the largest ever public-private partnership, practiced across the development sectors and geographic regions. It calls for companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.
The declared objective of GC’s participants and stakeholders is to ‘catalyse actions’ in support of broader UN goals (MDGs and SDGs). GC solicits commitments to specific sustainability and social responsibility goals from CEOs and highest-level executives. In turn, it offers training, peer networking, and their functional framework for responsibility – taking a ‘learning model’ for corporate change, rather than a ‘regulatory’ one.
Linkage with the UN
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has recognized the UNGC as a non-entity of the United Nations. In addition, it has also been additionally recognized in several other Inter-government contexts. The UNGA renewed the mandate of the UNGC office and the UN office that supports this initiative, by a resolution (A/Res/73/254). This UN resolution recognized “the vital role the UNGC continues to play in strengthening the capacity of the UN to partner strategically with the private sector”.
GC works with a wide range of UN entities, in its transactions with its partners. The areas of focus, and the concerned UN entity with which Global Compact transacts, are listed below:
Green Industry & the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Food and Agriculture
Peace and Poverty Eradication
Children’s rights and education
Health, Women, and Youth Empowerment
Anti-corruption and Rule of Law
Principles of UNGC
Gandhiji believed that ‘means are more important than ends’. On these lines, GC strongly believes in Ten principles as its pillars of operation, which are to be faithfully followed by its business participants, as well as other implementing partners. These principles are derived from the following UN declarations:
– United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
– ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998)
– Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), and
– UN Convention Against Corruption (2005).
These Ten principles, pertaining to Four domains – human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, are listed below:
1. A. Human Rights: : Businesses should
– Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
– Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses
2. Labour:: Businesses should uphold the
– Freedom of Association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
– Elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour
– Effective abolition of child labour and
– Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
3. C. Environment:: Businesses should support
– A precautionary approach to environmental challenges
– Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility,
– Encourage the diffusion of environment-friendly technologies.
4. D. Anti-Corruption: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms including extortion.
GC incorporates these principles into its strategies, policies and procedures, which fulfil its basic responsibilities to both people and the planet and set the stage for long-term success. The first six of the UN Global Compact’s principles focus on the Social dimension of Corporate sustainability, of which Human rights is the cornerstone.
Themes of work
Global Compact’s major programmes include the following:
Environment / Climate
Labour and decent work
Livelihood of indigenous people
Persons with disabilities
Water and sanitation
Ocean Stewardship coalition
Rule of law
General Counsel / Legal tasks