Too many businesses neglecting human rights, corruption concerns – UN survey

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office

14 June 2010 – Corruption and human rights issues continue to be neglected by companies despite ongoing interest in United Nations-led efforts to ensure ethical corporate conduct, according to the findings of a new survey by a global initiative that seeks to foster responsible business practices.

The UN Global Compact surveyed a total of 1,044 businesses in 97 countries, representing nearly 20 per cent of all of the initiative’s participants last year, and the key findings include that while a majority of companies reported implementation of key labour and environment policies, only 31 per cent had done the same for human rights and 32 per cent for corruption.

The Compact is a policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The aim is to ensure that corporations influence markets, commerce, technology and finance in ways that benefit economies and societies across the world.

“Some of our issues are lagging behind notably anti-corruption and human rights,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “They are relatively underdeveloped compared to, say, environmental concerns and workplace issues,” he told reporters today in New York.

Some 94 per cent of companies responding to the UN Global Compact survey said that the relevance of their participation in the initiative did not decrease last year despite the global economic downturn, with 25 per cent considering the initiative more relevant.

Overall, only 36 per cent of companies reported having a corporate responsibility or ethics officer – down from 39 per cent in 2008.

About 78 per cent of respondents said “increasing trust in the company” was the main reason for their remaining engaged in the Global Compact.

The survey also showed that ensuring supply chain partners of businesses adhered to the Global Compact principles is rising on the agenda of companies of all sizes, although it remains a challenge to translate policy into action.

Half of all respondents reported engaging in partnerships linked to development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the internationally agreed social development targets that countries are trying to achieve by 2015 – with projects on the environment, gender equality and poverty reduction being the top areas of focus.

“The findings of this Implementation Survey show that the Global Compact continues to contribute significantly to the diffusion of responsible business practices around the world,” said Mr. Kell.

“Nevertheless, the survey also shows very clearly that business must do more in critical areas to regain trust and build confidence. In policy and practice, companies of all sectors and sizes must redouble their efforts to protect human rights, fight corruption and advance transparency and accountability,” he added.

Hundreds of corporate leaders and government officials from across the world will gather in New York on 24 June for a two-day summit chaired by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to boost the role of responsible business and investment in building sustainable and inclusive markets, Mr. Kell announced.


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