|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Executive Director, Global Compact Office, on ‘Corporate
Sustainability Report’, Leaders Summit in New York, 19-20 September
The United Nations Global Compact could inspire a new level of business engagement with international issues and unlock the massive potential of collaboration among businesses, its Executive Director said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Georg Kell said that the Summit, scheduled for 19-20 September, would aim to create the “architecture for business engagement in support of the post-2015 agenda of the United Nations”. Hopefully discussions could help to “unleash” massive issue platforms on which businesses could collaborate, recognizing that efforts on women’s empowerment, climate change, anti-corruption, water and peace sustainability could pay big dividends.
Mr. Kell said he also had high expectations for a private sector lunch that would be attended by CEOs, Government officials and civil society representatives. It would focus on Africa, particularly generating employment and finding innovative sources of financing for development. The lunch would mark the start of a new effort focused on responsible African entrepreneurship, and on showing how business- and market-led development could sustain overall growth across the continent. The Summit would also seek to underscore the links between the private sector and education, peace and sustainable agriculture, all with a view to improving collaboration between businesses that were already striving for improved sustainability.
Turning to the “Global Corporate Sustainability Report”, which tracks the policies and practices of companies around the world, he said it found that issues like human rights and environmental sustainability were now considered central to business considerations. However, it also acknowledged a clear gap between what companies “say” and what they “do”, with policies developed at the CEO level often not implemented through the training of management.
The report also found that the biggest struggle was in the supply chain, although companies were taking action to make improvements, he said. Bigger companies fared better in making the necessary changes and in moving beyond commitments and into action across all issue areas. The longer a company engaged with the Global Compact, and the more action it tried to take, the greater were the benefits for both the company and society, he said. Companies had begun to see the big picture on sustainability challenges, accepting that global expansion could only succeed if the wider market also succeeded. With recognition of their stake in the system as a whole, they had committed more to collaboration through partnerships and networks.
Asked whether the Leaders Summit would tackle political issues like the Syria crisis, he replied that the Compact tended to have a more long-term focus, but the Summit would nonetheless address the issue of “business for peace”, which would have some overlap.
Responding to another question about the Middle East and the Global Compact’s engagement there, he said it was painful to see their positive efforts derailed by violence there and in other regions. He stressed that business leaders would provide pragmatic voices, knowing that their businesses could not grow in failing societies.
Asked about the Global Compact’s response to the collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh earlier this year, he stressed that companies realized that their supply chains were the weak point in their reputations and that they would not take care of themselves.
When asked a question about corruption and transparency, and how the Compact dealt with resource control by monarchies, he said corruption remained the most fundamental worldwide challenge, and one that businesses realized was a transaction cost. While it remained a huge systemic issue, companies could tackle it if there was evidence that they were tackling it collectively.
In response to a follow-up question about a list of shame naming countries in which corruption was the norm, he said the Global Compact publicly listed companies that did not report.
To a question about the Global Compact’s involvement in natural resource and ecosystem conservation, he said that caring for the climate was its largest issue platform, and it had held a large meeting focused on water last week in Stockholm.
He went on to answer questions on Somalia and the Western Balkans, and to outline how relationships worked between the Global Compact on the one hand and media companies and arms manufacturing companies on the other.
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