Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference for the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit (unofficial transcript)
Geneva, Switzerland, 5 July 2007SG: Thank you Mr. Kell [Mr. Georg Kell, Director, UN Global Compact] and Chairman Isdell [Mr. Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO, Coca-Cola], Madame Labelle [Ms. Huguette Labelle, Chair, Transparency International], [Mr. Jose Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo, CEO, Petrobras] and dear ladies and gentlemen of the press.
Welcome to the Global Compact Leaders Summit. And for those of you who have traveled great distances to be here, welcome to Geneva and the Palais des Nations.
This Summit is the largest event the United Nations has ever convened on the topic of corporate citizenship and the relationship between business and society. We have gathered an unprecedented number of leaders from business, government, civil society, labour, and academia for what will be a working conference on the Global Compact and the implementation of its 10 principles in the areas of human rights, workplace conditions, the environment, labour conditions and anti-corruption.
The Global Compact's growth has been remarkable, to say the least. Today the initiative includes more than 4,000 companies and stakeholders in every region of the world. This Summit is a testament to this truly international movement.
For business, it is increasingly clear that for markets to prosper, societies must be healthy in the widest sense. Unfortunately, in too many parts of the world, this is not the case. Through the Global Compact, business has an opportunity to help ensure that globalization delivers benefits to the widest number of people, including the poor.
Indeed, the goals of the business community and the international community have never been so aligned.
For the United Nations, the Global Compact also represents a modernizing initiative and demonstrates, we hope, that the UN is fit and ready to meet the needs of globalization by working with a host of new global actors, including the business community.
At this Summit, you will learn about the many ways in which the Global Compact and its principles are being advanced. I am especially excited about some groundbreaking initiatives related to climate change, management education, investment markets, and water. These include:
- “Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform”;
- The Principles for Responsible Management Education;
- The Goldman Sachs Sustainable Investing Framework;
- The Principles for Responsible Investment; and
- The CEO Water Mandate
Still, while significant strides are being made, we must not be complacent. Research released here today will show that companies need to deepen their integration of the Global Compact's principles, especially with respect to subsidiaries and their supply chains. By doing so, they will maximize the benefits of participation and enhance the Global Compact's ability to deliver results.
I also ask leaders from civil society and labour to continue their constructive role in the Compact, engaging with business as much as they can while also challenging companies to stretch their thinking and approaches. Our world's problems are too complex for any one sector to solve alone – collective action is demanded.
Finally, I wish to tell you that I will continue to support the Global Compact to the fullest extent possible, while encouraging more and more governments to become actively engaged, involved, in this historic undertaking.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
I hope you find this Summit a fascinating and rewarding experience.
Thank you for your attention.
Q: I would like to ask you on the “Caring for Climate”, as far as I see it, until now this is only a statement and when do you want to develop it into a sort of true declaration with binding commitments for companies? Otherwise, probably you can't make an impact on climate change if you only have a non-binding statement. Thank you.
SG: Participation and cooperation by business communities in addressing climate change issues is crucially important. In fact, they are the real stakeholders in terms of mobilizing resources; in terms of innovating technologies, they are in the front lines. While I am now consulting with national governments at the leaders' level to mobilize and galvanize political will to converge the international community's commitment, at the same time I would certainly expect the active participation? . This morning, many business leaders have confirmed and committed themselves to actively participate in this global effort to address global warming. Now, the General Assembly President is going to have a thematic debate in the General Assembly where national level strategies and initiatives will be discussed. And in September when I convene the high level debate in the General Assembly at the highest level possible of representation, then we will try to discuss the future course of action, looking beyond 2012. This is what I envisage now. I am going to have full use, utilization, of my Special Envoys in the meantime who will travel and discuss with leaders. Of course, in the course of our debate [as it] develops, we will have more concrete ideas, which will be implemented and which will be in the form of a declaration or whatever. But it may take time and I am quite certain, and would urge business communities to actively participate and do whatever they can, even before we make any final commitment at the international level. Thank you.
Q: My question is to the representative of Transparency International and to the Secretary-General. We see that you have criteria for companies to be part of your Global Compact. But do you envisage any criteria for companies being obliged to leave if they don't, for example, comply? And for Transparency International, in the list here we see two companies from Germany that have gone through major corruption scandals very recently. How do you feel taking part in a meeting at the same time with these companies and at the same time fighting against corruption? Thank you.
SG: That is a very good question. While this Global Compact is based on voluntary commitment, there is again a sense of accountability and transparency. We have 4,000 major stakeholders and companies participating in this voluntary commitment. But their voluntary commitment is very firm. Now, what we have been doing and will be doing to ensure accountability of this, each and every participant is required to disclose their performance on their website. And the United Nations is now going to do all together, coordinate, and those companies who will fail in the course of two years to disclose their performance will be de-listed, which may be very much a disincentive and will be a matter of their credibility. We are going to strengthen this accountability and transparency.
[Response from Chair of Transparency International.]
Q: My question is to the Secretary-General and to the Chairman of the Coca-Cola Company. To the Secretary-General, you have a UN code on anti-corruption. So far, that code has not been ratified by some of the leading developed countries. What are you doing to sort of bring this code to be implemented by countries? My question to the Coca-Cola Chairman, you know Coca-Cola has been stuck in a huge controversy in India for using contaminated water in its Coca-Cola supply. The case has gone to the Supreme Court. Does Coca-Cola have credibility to stand today to sign a Global Compact agreement?
SG: As a result of the outcome document of the 2005 summit meeting, leaders urged again all Member States to ratify as soon as possible the Geneva Convention on anti-corruption. When it comes to multilateral conventions or treaties, it is very crucially important that all Member States cooperate fully to take their domestic legislative procedures to ratify all such conventions. I would again do my best efforts to remind and urge Member States to do so as soon as possible.
[Response from Chairman of Coca-Cola.]
[Question for CEO of Petrobras and Chairman of Coca-Cola on benefits to businesses of adhering to the Global Compact principles. Response of CEO of Petrobras.]
Q: I have a question for Mr. Kell and for the Secretary-General. Do you think it is normal for the Global Compact to be financed by the donations of the business community?
SG: I think he is the Director of this Global Compact Office. He should answer together with questions addressed to me.
Georg Kell: The Global Compact Office in New York is funded through a trust fund funded by governments. The Global Compact Foundation is a voluntary independent foundation to support local activities, especially in developing countries. Global Compact Office operations in New York are exclusively funded through governments.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Secretary-General has to leave now. We want to thank him for spending the time with us. The other panelists will be available for further questions. So, thank you Secretary-General for joining the time with us.