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Uniting business for a better world: The United Nations Global Compact turns twenty

Uniting business for a better world: The United Nations Global Compact turns twenty

This year’s United Nations Day on 24 October is a rather special one with two significant milestones achieved. The Organisation itself, established by the allied powers in the immediate aftermath of WWII, is 75 years old, while the United Nations Global Compact – set up to urge businesses around the world to align themselves with the UN’s global goals – turns 20 on the same day.

The Global Compact came about in recognition of the fact that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals would far more likely be achieved if businesses got involved, rather than relying solely on governments and NGOs. Given that businesses are responsible for the majority of economic activity and growth, the way they operate has a wide and deep impact on how the world develops.

There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also known as Global Goals) set by the UN, to ‘provide an historic opportunity to unite all global stakeholders to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet’. Specific goals also include the provision of clean water and sanitation for all, along with affordable and clean energy and reduced inequality. The ambitious aim is to achieve these goals by 2030.

Far from being in conflict with the aim of profit, the SDGs bring benefits to businesses when embedded in their overall strategies and working practices. Living standards of consumers around the world will rise, and production and distribution methods reliant on diminishing resources and outdated working practices will be replaced with truly sustainable alternatives. Companies adopting sustainable strategies will also win increased brand trust and investor support.

Signing up to the Global Compact requires companies to adopt a principles-based approach to doing business. There are Ten Principles set out in the Compact that ensure companies act in the interest of people and the planet, while also providing a platform for long-term success. The Ten Principles are:

  1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  2. make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
  3. Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  4. the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
  5. the effective abolition of child labour; and
  6. the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  7. Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  8. undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
  9. encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
  10. Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

 

Many leading UK companies, including giants like Aviva, Tesco and Vodaphone, as well as numerous smaller ones, have already signed up and we have been part of the United Nations Global Compact since 2010. Every year, our Director provides a ‘Communication on Progress’ setting out how we are playing our part in achieving the SDGs. The progress we have made is combined with that of the other UK participants and reported by the Office for National Statistics, which is responsible for reporting UK data. This in turn feeds into the UN’s overall picture of global progress towards the SDGs.

Given our work supplying solar powered vaccine refrigerator systems to UN agencies in developing countries, it is perhaps not surprising that we are enthusiastic participants in the Global Compact project. However, nearly all companies can play their part – and find great benefit – in signing up. Until 2018, businesses with fewer than ten employees were excluded, but that restriction has been removed, so the only bar to participation now is if your work activities intrinsically counter the SDGs (for example, tobacco companies are excluded). As well as businesses, the Global Compact welcomes civil society groups, business associations, labour organisations, academic institutions and cities. So far, more than 9,000 companies and 3,000 non-business participants from over 160 countries have signed up.

To mark the Global Compact’s 20th anniversary, the UN Global Compact is spreading the word! They want the 100 million people already in participating organisations to join together on social media, using the hashtag #UnitingBusiness, and download a mobile app supporting the UN’s ActNow campaign.

Our MD, Ruth Chapman, confirms that Dulas will be playing its part:

“We are enormously proud of our participation in the United Nations Global Compact. When faced with problems that can only be solved on a global scale, it is essential that all parties are engaged, not least the business world. This year, with the global impact of COVID-19, that is true more than ever.

“Companies are brilliant at generating fresh ideas and solving problems so are ideal agents for change. At the same time investors are getting ever more interested in the environmental, social and governance policies of the firms they invest in, so it’s just not possible to for companies to ignore these issues.

“The Global Compact provides a ready-made structure for businesses looking to design sustainable strategies, along with training tools and a global network of like-minded professionals. The more companies that participate the stronger will be our collective voice, so I hope the Compact’s twentieth anniversary will see a surge in new members and ever more impetus in the drive for globally sustainable development.”

More information about the United Nations Global Compact can be found at https://www.unglobalcompact.org/