Partnerships with the private sector

George Kell

George Kell
Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office

Global Compact

Facing realities: getting down to business

The United Nations Global Compact brings business together with UN agencies, labor, civil society and governments to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. Through the power of collective action, the Global Compact seeks to mainstream these ten principles in business activities around the world and to catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals. With nearly 4,000 participants from more than 100 countries, it is the world's largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative.

The Global Compact's environmental principles are derived from the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and ask businesses and other stakeholders to take a precautionary approach to environmental challenges; undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Today, countless business practices and cross-sector partnerships use the Global Compact's ten principles as a moral compass. The financial markets have taken steps to acknowledge the potential of companies' social and environmental impacts. There is growing recognition that voluntary and regulatory efforts are in fact complementary. And global awareness and understanding of the modern-day notion of corporate responsibility are markedly higher than a decade ago.

Yet such advances and activities cannot obscure the fact that globalization remains an imperfect experiment. Perhaps more than ever before, business - in partnership with the United Nations and other stakeholders - has the opportunity to ensure that globalization and commerce advance in ways that benefit economies, societies and people everywhere.

The Leaders Summit takes place every three years, with «Facing Realities: Getting Down to Business» as the theme of the 2007 meeting - the largest event ever convened by the United Nations on the issue of corporate citizenship. The Summits offer ministers a unique opportunity to interact with leaders of business and civil society from all corners of the world on the topic of corporate citizenship. Most of the sessions take place in roundtable format, with very few presentations in the traditional sense.

However, the Summits are also a place for high-profile announcement and activities. Among those slated for 2007: groundbreaking studies by major consultancy firms to identify current trends in corporate responsibility, the launch of Principles for Responsible Business Education by academic participants in the Summit, and a declaration establishing a roadmap for the future of the Global Compact Initiative.