Secretary-General Urges Global Compact Board to Accelerate Efforts, as Too Many Businesses Still Willing to Sacrifice Workers’ Rights for Bottom Line

6 May 2013
SG/SM/15006-ECO/221

Secretary-General Urges Global Compact Board to Accelerate Efforts, as Too Many Businesses Still Willing to Sacrifice Workers’ Rights for Bottom Line

6 May 2013
Secretary-General
SG/SM/15006 ECO/221
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Urges Global Compact Board to Accelerate Efforts, as Too Many

Businesses Still Willing to Sacrifice Workers’ Rights for Bottom Line

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the United Nations Global Compact Board Meeting in New York, 6 May:

Good morning, and welcome to our first Board meeting this year.  Let me first welcome our new Board members:  Jyrki Raina, Robert Greenhill and Matthew Tukaki, Chair of the newly established Local Network Advisory Group.  Thank you for your commitment.  We are very pleased to have you here.

I greatly value the guidance this Board provides.  Our strategic goals are ambitious.  A growing number of businesses in all regions recognize the importance of reflecting environmental, social and economic considerations in their operations and strategies.  More than 7,000 companies have embraced the Global Compact principles.

Now, the challenge is to move from incremental progress to transformation — in markets and societies alike.  The past week’s headlines have been dominated by the tragedy at a garment factory in Bangladesh.  This is just one more example of the Compact’s relevance.

The struggle to improve working conditions, including the basic aspects of safety, is far from won.  The Bangladesh incident is one in a long line of deadly factory accidents, mine explosions and other examples around the world that illustrate the need to uphold International Labour Organization (ILO) standards, as all members of the Compact have pledged to do.  The ILO, for its part, has a team on the ground as we speak.

Too many businesses are still willing to sacrifice workers’ rights and safety for the bottom line.  It is time for all companies to police their supply chains, not distance themselves from them.  Consumers, too, need to be educated about the social and environmental impact of the products they buy.

The Global Compact has an essential role to play in promoting safe and sustainable employment and opportunity.  That is why we must increase the scale and quality of engagement in our initiative.

I am pleased with progress on the strategic review.   Progress has been evident on several key areas, including empowering Local Networks, expanding issue platforms and strengthening Global Compact-UN links.  At the UN Private Sector Focal Points Meeting and the Annual Local Networks Forum, decisions were taken to advance the Global Compact at the country level.

I am also glad to see two notable developments related to governance:  first, the updated Terms of Reference for Board Members formalizes the inclusive nature of the Board — creating a role for the Chair of the newly established Local Network Advisory Group; [and] second, today’s first joint session with Governments and Board members sends a strong signal of the desire to build stronger relationships with Governments — Governments and the UN are now working to accelerate momentum to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and set global priorities for the post-2015 period.  Global Compact participants are already deeply invested.  Scores of country and sectoral consultations are collecting business views and perspectives.

The Global Compact Leaders Summit in September is an opportunity to show the world how business and the UN can work together towards common goals in critical areas, such as climate change, energy, water, food, women's empowerment, children's rights, decent jobs and education.

I welcome the Compact’s efforts to enhance its ability to support our partnership efforts in these areas — including the UN Partnership Facility I have proposed to the General Assembly to deepen our system-wide collaborations with an ever broader range of actors.  I commend you for your commitment, but today, I want to ask you to do more to champion the Global Compact and the United Nations in your individual and professional capacities.

Each of you has great influence.  Together, you have enormous potential to advance corporate responsibility and sustainability.  Now, I look forward to hearing from each of you.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.