United Nations, June 23 - It may well be historic. Some 500 leaders of major organizations from around the world convened today at United Nations headquarters to advance "Business As a Force For Good".
As the three-day conference opened, business and civil society set about demonstrating "how the private sector is taking action and partnering to advance societal priorities, with an emphasis on the United Nations global agenda for sustainable development to be released later this year (the Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs)".
Understandably, these heads of companies, non-governmental agencies, academic institutions and governments have an encompassing agenda. Key topics range from "Business For Peace" and "Caring For Climate" to "Supply Chain Sustainability" and "Anti Corruption".
A few of the day's many highlights:
"Business For Peace" speakers presented several valuable case histories and insights. For example, South Korean manufacturers have established several factories in North Korea employing some 54,000 workers. Sudan and South Sudan business leaders are working cooperatively despite conflict between their governments. And a Palestinian-Israeli business group is similarly engaged in developing joint commerce. Moreover, the key to success of such efforts is local partnerships with civil society organizations -- the "interlocutors" -- largely through the Global Compact's 18 Local Networks around the world.
The Global Compact-related Principles For Responsible Investment (PRI) are now being implemented by some 1400 major long-term investor signatories -- pension funds, money managers -- on standards including anti-corruption, human rights and environmental responsibility. PRI is administering "engagement inquiries" in which nine major investors will meet with 50 extractive industries companies examining the companies' human rights policies and implementation. More broadly, PRI is also planning to study the transparency and disclosure of corporate tax payments internationally, especially in less developed countries.
Human Rights issues also dominated many of the day's programs. A session on "Human Rights & Labour: Trends, Progress and the Way Forward" traced the "evolution and uptake of the business and human rights agenda, and initiatives currently underway to increase implementation." A speaker said that Human Rights progress represented "the slowest uptake among the ten Global compact Standards." A recent survey of 1500 companies documented progress in addressing and implementing such policies but, be noted, it remains "a challenging area.”
Educating tomorrow’s leaders
Running concurrently and in association with “Global Compact+15” , the Global Forum for Responsible Management Education is a convocation ”setting the path for management education and business to take a lead role in shaping the global development agenda outlined in the UN SDGs.” This 6th Principles for Responsible Management Eduction Assembly of about 300 educational, business, government and UN thought leaders will have significant impact on the expanding delivery of PRME principles at hundreds of colleges and universities around the world. Participants include educational representatives such as deans, university presidents, professors, business school accreditation bodies/regional associations and students.
The long arc of CSR
“Global Compact+15” is a milestone in the long arc of corporate social responsibility/sustainable development as well as the UN Global Compact itself (now with its 12,000+ participants). Icons in that realm offered these assessments of “15 years of corporate sustainability”:
Kofi Annan, Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Nobel Laureate: “We had gone through a period when people were very suspicious of business people, particularly in the Third World … I think there is a better atmosphere today than 15 years ago … governments and private sectors are working better with each other.”
Chad Holliday, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell; Former Chairman, Bank of America; Former Chairman & CEO, DuPont: “[The change] is driven perhaps most of all by the realization that corporate responsibility is not just the right thing to do, it is also a business opportunity. Even investors are getting the message.”
More reporting on this message from ”Global Compact+15” coming at CSRwire tomorrow and Thursday.
Business in Society www.businessinsociety.net , @Biz_in_Society reports regularly on CSR and sustainable development in a variety of social and legacy media. John Paluszek, executive producer, is also senior counsel at Ketchum.