25 June 2015

Deputy Secretary-General, at UN Global Compact Event, Highlights ‘Corporate Responsibility as Strategic Objective’

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the UN Global Compact CEO Luncheon, in New York today:

It is a pleasure to be here.  Let me thank Ambassador [Harald] Braun of Germany, Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria and Ambassador [Lourdes Ortiz] Yparraguirre of the Philippines for hosting us today.  And welcome to Lise Kingo, who takes over as Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact starting 1 September.

I also want to thank the Global Compact Board and the Government Group for your continued leadership in advancing the Global Compact initiative.  Collaboration among Governments, business, civil society, trade union leaders and the United Nations is of critical importance in today’s world.  We deeply appreciate your efforts to strengthen these relationships. 

Today we celebrate remarkable progress in engaging business as part of the solution to the pressing challenges of our time.  When it was launched in 2000, the Global Compact had initial support from 44 companies.  Today, it is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, with 12,000 signatories in 170 countries.  Participants truly represent the world.  Every industry sector and size is represented.  And companies are engaged equally in developed and developing countries.

All of you have pledged to do business with integrity and respect — committing to embed human rights, labour relations, environment and anti-corruption principles into your operations.  Eighty-eight country networks are spreading the message at the local level. 

The Global Compact was a partner in founding the responsible investment movement worldwide and in coining the “ESG” terminology for environmental, social and governance investments.  The formation of the Principles for Responsible Investment — now with nearly 1,400 investors managing assets of roughly $59 trillion — and the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative show that mainstream investors are focusing on sustainability as never before.

And through the Principles for Responsible Management Education, the Global Compact has been a part of shaping future outlook of business leadership — with over 600 academic institutions in 80 countries committed to integrate sustainability into business school curricula and research.

Today, corporate action on sustainability has become more strategic and sophisticated.  Champion companies, like many of you here today, are making sustainability central to your board of directors’ agenda.

Looking ahead, I hope we rapidly reach a situation where all 70,000 multinationals and countless new small- and medium-sized enterprises around the world become stewards for corporate responsibility as a strategic objective.

As the Secretary-General highlighted earlier today, your efforts are especially important in this critical year for shaping our future.  The private sector is a key actor for the financing for development conference in Addis Ababa in July and in implementing the new development agenda to be adopted in September in New York.  The same goes for the climate agreement to be reached in December in Paris.

With the help of responsible business and investments we will have a chance to achieve the future we want — once and for all putting an end to poverty, transforming all lives into lives of dignity and protecting our planet.  Let us remember we have no Planet B.

To spur significant corporate change, good environmental, social and governance performance by business must be broadly supported and also profitable.  Market incentives will be needed in order for sustainability to drive innovation, investment and trade at scale.

Governments must also take measures to accelerate business solutions based on sustainability.  This means creating enabling environments, rewarding the right kind of behaviour and encouraging companies to enhance accountability.

At the same time, companies need to do their part not just by doing business more responsibly, but also by encouraging Governments to take the necessary steps.  For example, leading CEOs are urging Governments around the world to implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption and to institute public procurement that is truly public.

Companies are now growingly also making the business case for carbon pricing.  By that, they give politicians important support for bold climate and other necessary policies.

With 15 years of progress, we are well placed to bring responsible business to the next level.  The report presented earlier today by DNV GL affirms that business leaders around the world are increasingly connecting the dots between the well-being of society and the health of business.  They are also growingly changing how they operate and partner as a result.

It is evident that the UN Global Compact has had a profound influence on the spread of responsible business practices worldwide.  It is also evident and gratifying that businesses see this cooperation as being in their enlightened self-interest — apart from doing “the right thing”.

The United Nations and the Global Compact are ready to work with you towards even greater achievements.  Thank you for your leadership, commitment and for embracing your responsibilities.  Finally, I would be remiss not to thank Georg Kell for his years of dedicated service.  Georg, thank you.  Best in your new position.

For information media. Not an official record.