Increasing trust through commitment to corporate sustainability

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The Global Compact is the world’s largest global corporate sustainability initiative, with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business participants based in over 160 countries. A vanguard of companies in all key markets is taking action. Participants represent nearly every industry sector and size, and come equally from developed and developing countries. The idea and practice of responsible business is rooted in all continents. We have over 85 country networks that are convening companies to act on sustainability issues at the ground level.

1: PRINCIPLED BUSINESS

For any company seeking to be sustainable, it begins with operating with integrity – respecting fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti- corruption. The Global Compact’s Ten Principles provide a universal language for corporate responsibility – understood and interpreted in 160 countries around the world by over 8,000 companies – and a framework to guide all businesses regardless of size, complexity or location.

Respecting principles in business operations and supply chains is a base-line for corporate sustainability. Yet, principles are about far more than compliance. They provide common ground for partners, a moral code for employees, an accountability measure for critics. A growing number of companies are seeing beyond risk, finding real value in actively addressing social, environmental and governance issues.

2: STRENGTHENING SOCIETY

Sustainable companies look beyond their own walls and take actions to support the societies around them. Poverty, conflict, an uneducated work- force, and resource scarcity, for example, are also strategic issues for business success and viability. With business activity, investments and supply chains reaching all corners of the earth, companies are choosing to be active stakeholders in societies for the long run, knowing that they cannot thrive when the world around them is deteriorating.

Companies are aligning core business activities, philanthropy and advocacy campaigns with UN goals and issues. Collaboration, in particular, is essential. Companies and stakeholders are coming together to provide a collective voice and share risks in tackling major challenges that no single player can overcome, such as corruption, cli-mate change and discrimination.

3: LEADERSHIP COMMITMENT

Effecting change begins with the company’s leadership. A public commitment by the chief executive, with support from the Board of Directors, is required to participate in the Glob-al Compact. Leadership must send a strong signal throughout the organization that sustainability counts, and all responsibilities are important. 

 This means instigating action in key areas: Board ownership of the agenda; adjustments to policies and practices; alignment of government affairs; training and motivating employees; pushing sustainability into the sup-ply chain; and disclosing efforts and outcomes. Leaders also recognize they cannot shift systems alone, working with others to shatter barriers and increase the odds of success. Sustain-ability requires a long-term vision and commitment to ongoing efforts, both to ensure progress and keep pace with a rapidly changing world.

4: REPORTING PROGRESS

Non-financial reporting expectations have evolved from a feel-good supplement to a strategic report showing measurable gains and losses. As a chief accountability measure, signatories to the Global Compact are required to produce an annual Communication on Progress (COP), typically included as part of their sustainability or annual report, providing the company’s stakeholders with an account of their efforts to operate responsibly and support society. Over 28,000 COPs can be found on the Global Compact website.

The COP policy was introduced in 2004

A number of stakeholders are driving businesses to be more transparent – from investors and consumers, to citizens and civil society groups. A top priority is to find ways to better measure sustainability impacts, which will help to direct effective corporate strategies, inform com-munity and stakeholder dialogues, and guide investor decision-making.

5: LOCAL ACTION

While the Global Compact principles are universal, companies exist and act within nations and communities with highly varying expectations of what responsible business means. Addition-ally, the types of issues a company faces and how it can actively support local and national priorities ranges greatly. To help business navigate sustainability on the ground, we have Global Compact Local Networks in approximately 85 countries.

Our networks exist to support business participants – large, small, foreign and local firms. They are organized and run locally – led by business, but always bringing key stakeholders to the table from civil society, labour and academia. Global Compact networks foster learning, reporting, networking, partnerships and advocacy – all with the goal of advancing sustain-ability understanding and performance country by country.

UN Compact guide to corporate sustainability

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