|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Global Compact’s Business Role at ‘Rio+20’ Conference,
Plans for Corporate Sustainability Forum
Expecting to welcome its 7,000th corporate participant this week, the United Nations Global Compact had sent out a call to companies still doubtful about sustainability issues to “come down from the fence” and join the movement, Executive Georg Kell said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Mr. Kell was providing an update on the role of business at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“ Rio+20”) and on the Global Compact’s plans to stage a Corporate Sustainability Forum from 15-18 June. After 10 years of mobilizing businesses around the world, there was growing evidence that creating long-term value while embracing universal principles made good business sense, and a growing number of companies were engaging, he said. Although more than 3,000 had already been de-listed for failure to make regular disclosures, there had been progress.
Starting several months ago, he said, the Compact had begun mobilizing for Rio+20, particularly the private sector component, which, it was to be hoped, would deliver innovation and collaboration under the theme “For a Future We Want”. It was expected that some 1,000 executives from more than 100 countries would be mobilized in hopes of establishing firmly the notion that corporate sustainability was the way to go. The Global Compact initiative was launched to promote responsible business practices everywhere, on the basis of United Nations values and principles.
Mr. Kell said that while the movement was still growing, it was disappointing that it had not grown as fast as anticipated. Although 7,000 corporate participants from 135 countries, organized through 100 networks, was a big number, it was not yet transformative enough, he pointed out, noting that, as things stood, it represented less than 10 per cent of the relevant corporate population. It was the Compact’s hope that Rio+20 would deliver very strong encouragement for corporate sustainability, and make it possible to demonstrate that most of the solutions needed already existed; make the case for disseminating solutions rapidly; and call on Governments to put in place the incentive structure and enabling environment required for the rapid diffusion of solutions on critical issues such as water, climate, social development and women’s empowerment, among others.
The Global Compact Office was now entirely focused on mobilizing that effort, he said, expressing hopes of attracting 1,000 corporate participants and investors. Already, some 400 business schools had started integrating the Global Compact into the MBA curriculum, he noted, adding that chief officers of stock exchanges as well as civil society partners had also been drawn into the programme as part of its implementation. All those efforts were intended to send a signal that the business community was increasingly willing to step up to the task despite the fact that the numbers were not growing fast enough.
He said the Compact was experimenting with two models of collaboration, including an anti-corruption model under which collective action at the country level was taking off on a large scale. That initiative entailed foreign and local companies working together with “rule makers” to improve the enabling environment, he said. The second model required companies to place greater emphasis on gender equality, he said, pointing out that some 130 companies were expected to meet in New York next week to work on that particular issue, with the active participation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN‑Women.
An important component of that programme’s success was the ability to agree on the goals, he said. Pointing out that there was “a huge appetite” in the private sector to get involved in seeking solutions, he said the Compact was “approaching Rio+20 with optimism”, and quite aware that more progress could have been made on the political front. “But in this case, the private sector is not waiting for politicians to get everything right,” he declared. “We think 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.”
Asked about leadership questions raised with regard to one network in the United States, he explained that, with more than 100 self-sustaining networks, all led by participants with civil society engagement, his Office did not interfere in detailed governance questions. While it realized that there would always be leadership issues, it had always recognized only one legitimate “steering group” at any one time.
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