UN Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact was launched at the UN Headquarters in 2000. It was the result of a speech by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in 1999, proposing that business and the UN jointly initiate a “global compact of shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market”. The speech resonated with global business leaders in the audience, who were experiencing a crisis of legitimacy and pressure from all fronts to spread the benefits of globalization. And thus from one phrase, a global movement was born.
What began as a small initiative, comprised of just 44 companies, is today the world’s largest initiative to advance corporate sustainability – calling on business everywhere to deliver long-term value in financial, social, environmental and ethical terms. Over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business organizations in 170 countries are signatories.
Leveraging the unparalleled convening power and moral authority of the United Nations, the Global Compact helps companies to meet their sustainability commitment by providing a principle-based framework, guidance and best practices, action platforms and networking events, as well as fostering collaboration among participants.
By encouraging companies to operate responsibly and take actions that support society, the initiative works to ensure that business activity adds value not just to the bottom-line, but also to people, communities and the planet. The goal is to make sure that the benefits we reap today do not come at the expense of the environment and to safeguard the well-being and prosperity of future generations.
In business, success depends on a variety of factors: an innovative idea, a brave entrepreneur willing to take risks, a good business model, capital to realize the idea, the right pool of people to build a strong organization and a willingness to work with partners. With the right operating environment, a level playing field for competition, good incentives and a bit of luck, success should follow.
In the past decades, we have come to realize that prosperity – for a country as well as for a company – depends on more than accumulating wealth. We also need to nurture and protect the natural environment, to develop the right intellectual resources, to create a strong and motivated workforce and support stable societies.
Yet, the world remains on an unsustainable path. Despite tremendous progress in the past century, challenges are mounting. Rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions, widening income gaps, severe resource constraints, economic uncertainty, widespread social upheaval and conflict; a set of difficult, interconnected problems that threaten to seriously undermine our social stability and prosperity. Humanity is on a deeply troubling path.
But there is hope: in the midst of all this, we are seeing encouraging signs of change. Human ingenuity and capacity for creativity and innovation is astonishing. Unexpected new
technologies pop up every day. Radical new approaches to doing business, such as the circular and sharing models, are flourishing. We also see new forms of collaboration – at the international, national and local levels, and across sectors – that continually bring new ideas to the table.
These are truly exciting times. If we can make the right decisions and work together, we can change the path we are on and make a leap towards a new sustainable, inclusive, prosperous future for all. We have the capital, the knowledge and the technology to create change – if we make the right choices, and if we make them now.