I am pleased to join you for this first meeting of the reconstituted Global Compact Board.
Usually, we hold our Board meetings in New York. I hope this meeting at Rio+20 will be an auspicious beginning for this new Board as we seek to take corporate sustainability to the next level.
Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to our new Board members, especially those here today:
Mr. Abrahão, Mr. Di Piazza and Mr. Galaev.
Mr. Gopalakrishnan, Ms. Foster and Mr. Masilela.
Mr. Naqvi, Mr. Polman and Ms. Tilaar.
Mr. Vasudeva and Mr. Wilton.
The work of the Global Compact and the broader UN-business agenda has grown dramatically since the Board was first appointed in 2006. It is fitting that we now augment the Board with additional expertise and perspectives to help steer our work.
I greatly appreciate the time and energy that all of you have committed to the Global Compact. UN-business collaboration is essential for achieving a better future.
We are on a good track already.
Through the Global Compact, some 7,000 companies in 135 countries are working to change their operations to align with universal principles.
Platforms and working groups on sustainable energy, climate, water, women’s empowerment and anti-corruption are thriving.
We have Local Networks on the ground in 101 countries. I have visited at least a dozen of these and been very inspired by the level of enthusiasm and action. In April, I launched the network in Myanmar and felt the true potential of the Compact to contribute to the historic transition under way in that country.
And just two days ago, the Corporate Sustainability Forum here in Rio showed that business is able and willing to be part of solutions to the serious global challenges we face. In fact, businesses are leading the charge in key areas.
These are all promising signs.
But as we know, much more needs to be done to increase both the scale and quality of corporate sustainability practices.
Not enough companies are taking the agenda seriously. We have set a goal of reaching 20,000 companies by 2020 as part of our efforts to reach critical mass.
For those companies that are in the Global Compact, we must find a way to keep them engaged and improving their work. Just one-quarter of our participants consider their work advanced.
It is also unfortunate that we are forced to remove so many companies each year – especially small companies – that are not meeting the requirements of the initiative. These are companies that have found their way to the Global Compact, yet somehow do not keep pace. We must work harder to keep them on the path of sustainability.
These two goals – growth and quality – are keys to Global Compact’s future. I am pleased to hear that the Board is making new progress on a growth strategy and on integrity measures. I expect these discussions to continue at our next meeting later this year.
In advance of that next gathering, I ask you to explore how we can best mobilize business to support priority UN goals. Indeed, this is the second of the Global Compact’s primary objectives – and one I would like to see strongly advanced in the years to come. For my second term in office, I have identified partnership as a central means to achieve our core mandates, and business will be central. I would like to thank Paul Polman and other members of the Global Compact LEAD working group which has helped to define UN-Business partnership services. Now we need to build and deepen these capacities, and integrate them with our multi-stakeholder partnership capacities and efforts.
Already we have some experience upon which we can build. The Global Compact’s Caring for Climate platform has helped to advance our Sustainable Energy for All initiative – which clearly stands as one of the biggest and most important outcomes at this Rio+20 Conference. Now we need to strengthen and systematize our capacity to build and execute such powerful transformational partnerships. I look forward to the Global Compact’s active support on this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here together in Rio to create a new model for development – one that rejects the myth that there is a zero-sum trade-off between growth and the environment.
We are here because we understand that, with smart public policies, governments can grow their economies, alleviate poverty, create decent jobs and accelerate social progress in a way that respects the earth’s finite natural resources.
Momentum for change is growing. You will play a crucially important role in making this transformation irreversible.
We at the United Nations and I personally attach great importance to your efforts, and we will continue to look to you for leadership, stewardship and commitment.
Now, I am eager to hear from you on the work you have under way or are planning.