Companies around the world have long been called on to realize their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and take up sustainability initiatives. Many corporates have in fact taken up some very meaningful steps in this direction through CSR committees as well individual actions of their employees. In India, CSR has been a mandatory feature for companies with high profits and has helped immensely in the sustainable development of the country.
The United Nations has also been at the forefront of urging companies to contribute to socially useful and environmentally beneficial projects and activities. It has also urges companies to integrate basic ethical principles in their very working. In fact, the largest global corporate sustainability initiative has been made by the UN itself, by setting up the United Nations Global Compact.
The United Nations Global Compact (UN Global Compact) is a voluntary UN agreement that involves businesses across the world. The UN Global Compact was first coined at the World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999 by the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. It was later enforced in 2000 at the UN Headquarters.
UN Global Compact attempts to brings together the entire corporate sector worldwide to achieve the UN Goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The main objective of the UN Global Compact is to support and guide the global business community to align their operations and strategies in the key areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-Corruption.
Ms. Lise Kingo is the current CEO and the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact and she had succeeded Georg Kell, one of the founders of Global Compact. The number of participants has consistently increased under this forum and currently there are around 10,435 companies from 166 countries involved with the UN Global Compact.
The first Global Compact Leaders Summit had taken place in New York on 24 June 2004 and was chaired by Kofi Annan. Subsequent summits have taken place with the key objectives in mind.
The UN Global Compact works under the Ten Principles. These are listed as follows and are to be adopted by all member-companies:
- Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
- Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
- 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.
- Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
- Support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
- Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
- Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
- Work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
A number of local networks under the UN Global Compact have also been initiated. Globally, there are about 85 Local Networks in total. These networks play a vital role in helping the companies and especially the non-profit organizations in creating awareness about the corporate sector responsibility.
India has started its own network, called The Global Compact Network India. The Global Compact Network India was originally formed by the organizations that had actively participated in the UN Global Compact. Today, it acts as a legal entity for various organizations in India.
Seeking inspiration from the UN Global Compact, the UN Global Compact Cities Programme was proposed and launched in 2002. This was introduced to include the cities under the UN Global Compact framework and work towards in improving the urban life throughout the globe. Melbourne was the first city to engage with the UN Global Compact. As of 2019, there are about 130 cities under the UN Global Compact Cities Programme.
UN Global Compact has been working on various issues since its inception. The measures that it has taken currently in addressing the global business sector on the COVID-19 pandemic, is also praiseworthy.