5 July 2007 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged action on climate change and other shared international concerns in an address to the Global Compact Leaders Summit – a gathering in Geneva of business leaders, government ministers, and heads of civil society groups committed to United Nations principles.
“This Summit is an important opportunity to take our partnership forward – in learning as well as action,” Mr. Ban told those assembled from over 90 countries. “Over these two days, we must make an honest appraisal of what the Global Compact has achieved, renew our commitments, and chart a courageous course for the next three years.”
The Secretary-General stressed the importance of joint actions to address climate change and announced the planned launch of a Business Leadership Platform on “Caring for Climate” – a joint project with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Mr. Ban recalled that since the Global Compact was launched in 2000 with 47 companies, it had grown to “what is today the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative, counting 4,000 stakeholders in 116 countries.”
The Compact “has lived up to its promise – bringing business together with other stakeholders, and infusing markets and economies with universal values,” he said.
Participants, split almost evenly between developed and developing economies, “have taken thousands of actions in support of the Global Compact’s 10 principles” which relate to the environment and anti-corruption as well as human and labour rights.
The conference offers the opportunity “to assess the sea change that is taking place in the relationship between business and communities,” he said, pointing out that in today’s interdependent world, “business leadership cannot be sustained without showing leadership on environmental, social and governance issues.”
Mr. Ban acknowledged that progress in carrying out the Global Compact’s principles is still uneven. “We need to apply policies more deeply and specifically across the board,” he said. In areas that would benefit most from a robust global economy, business is still too often linked with “exploitative practices, corruption, income equality and other barriers” that discourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
Mr. Ban called on representatives from business, trade unions, academia and governments to do their part to ensure the Compact’s success, and pledged his full support in this endeavour “so that we fulfil the Global Compact’s aspirations and vision.”
General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa told the approximately 1,000 participants that the UN must “strengthen partnerships with business and civil society in order to better utilize your knowledge, expertise, access and reach.”
Neville Isdell, Chairman and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Company, said it was time to leverage the contribution of business through the Compact, which provided “the structure and the focus for collective action.” Praising the Compact’s voluntary character, he said the initiative “allows us to pursue the transformation in ways that none of us can do on our own.”
Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan said the human rights potential of the Compact was not being fully realized, and said delisting companies that do not uphold the principles was a positive but insufficient step. She called for a “robust peer review mechanism,” adding that “the best-performing companies can help to raise the bar by holding each other to account.”
Guy Rider, the International Trade Union Confederation’s General Secretary, said the Compact was grounded in principles recognized by law, and “it is up to society to tell business what its responsibility is, not up to business to establish what its responsibility is.”
Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan said a new paradigm was favouring the world’s richest 1.7 billion consumers in a “continuing asymmetry” among global consumers. The “market-based globalization” was not a panacea, and an “ethics-based globalization” should instead aim at a “mutually assured survival,” he said.
The Compact’s first Annual Review, a comprehensive survey that monitors the extent to which companies have implemented the 10 principles, showed wide adoption. A majority of survey respondents have policies in place related to human rights, labour conditions, the environment and the fight against corruption. Some 63 per cent said they participated in the Compact to increase trust in the company.
The Review also showed that companies are increasingly following the new reporting policy, whereby signatories are expected to disclose annually how they are implementing the principles, or risk being de-listed. Some 500 companies were delisted last year for repeated failure to communicate on progress, said Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell, and 500 more were expected to be delisted this year.
While companies are accelerating implementation efforts, there are notable performance gaps, Mr. Kell said. “For multinationals and other large companies, it is clear that more work needs to be done to embed the principles into subsidiaries and supply chains.”
Also addressing the Summit was Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, who called on those present to “combine the universal authority of the UN, the global reach of international business and the mobilizing power of civil society to confront” global challenges together.