UN urges businesses to join corporate responsibility pact ahead of Rio forum

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office. UN Photo/Mark Garten

28 February 2012 – The world’s corporations are increasingly adopting a more sustainable course of doing business, a senior United Nations official said today, but voiced concern that participation was still lagging below expectations ahead of a major forum on corporate sustainability in Rio de Janeiro in June.

Speaking at a press conference in New York, Georg Kell, Executive Director of the Global Compact Office, the UN initiative that seeks to foster socially responsible corporate practices, emphasized the increasing need for the private sector to put sustainability on its agenda.

“After 10 years of mobilizing businesses around the world we have made some progress and we have growing evidence that long-term value creation embracing universal principles makes good business sense,” stated Mr. Kell.

The UN Global Compact today counts more than 10,000 participants, including over 7,000 businesses in 140 countries, many of whom are working to advance greater environmental and social sustainability in the spirit of the initiative’s 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

But Mr. Kell noted that while the 7,000th participant had recently signed up for the programme, over 3,000 companies had already been delisted for noncompliance.

“We are disappointed, as a matter of fact, that the movement isn’t growing faster,” he told reporters. “Of course, it’s a big movement, but not yet transformative.”

But, with over 2,000 participants expected at the upcoming Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, which is part of the broader Rio+20 conference in the Brazilian city, Mr. Kell voiced hope that the time had come for business leaders and investors to further spearhead their sustainability initiatives with governments, local authorities, and civil society groups.

“Our hope is that Rio+20 will deliver a very strong encouragement for corporate sustainability. That we will be able to demonstrate that most of the solutions we need exist already,” he stated.

Mr. Kell added that he was approaching the Rio+20 forum with optimism.

“We know there is a huge appetite in the private sector. The time is now to move forward and to demonstrate through solutions that we can find answers to many of the problems. What it takes is goodwill, collaboration, and the right incentives.”

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