Center Stage Podcast

The U.N. Global Compact on a 'common agenda for the world'

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan created the U.N. Global Compact (UNGC) 17 years ago to align corporations on 10 universal sustainability principles and "give globalization a human face," said Lise Kingo, UNGC’s CEO and executive director. 

The compact combines U.N.’s global reach with tools and best practices from business, she said at a GreenBiz 18 session in Phoenix, Arizona. The collaboration has created the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives with 13,000 signatories supporting labor, environment and anti-corruption goals. 

The 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are another important part of the UNGC agenda. 

"I have never seen this kind of common agenda for the world," Kingo said. "It’s a world with many challenges, a fractured world, but these 17 goals set a clear agenda" for progress. 

What does it take to ensure that companies are taking the route of not doing harm and not compromising any of the Global Goals? 

"90 percent of our companies have solid practices in place, a nice increase of 10 percent over last year," Kingo said. 

The supporting CEOs report annually on their progress or risk being de-listed by the U.N. Also, the environmental progress can be tracked using data and energy and water savings. The biggest challenge is the social part of the agenda, however, as it "doesn’t immediately link to the financial bottom line."

"This year the U.N. will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration," Kingo said. "Still there are even more inequality issues in the world than we have seen."

The UNCG is working to show that when companies create equal opportunities for fulfilling work, they create sustainability in global supply chains. Watch a video of the entire discussion here.

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Technical direction for GreenBiz 350 by Stephanie May Joyce.