“Voluntary initiatives by business for integrating social and environmental dimensions in its operations and in its interaction with stakeholders can make a significant contribution to business competitiveness, efficiency and reputation,” said Erik Belfrage, Chair of the Commission on Business in Society, ICC’s working body on corporate responsibility.
“As a global, multistakeholder initiative under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, the Global Compact has contributed to advancing voluntary corporate responsibility among a broad range of actors, articulating universal principles for voluntary corporate responsibility initiatives, and acting as a convening and learning forum to share and promote good practice,” explained ICC Secretary General Guy Sebban, who is a member of the Global Compact Board.
The Global Compact’s voluntary nature has been key to inducing companies to participate in it, encouraging them to complement the necessary action by governments, and to safeguard and advance the Compact’s principles. The increasing integration of those principles into the operational culture of companies underlines the need to maintain this instrumental characteristic as the Compact’s defining attribute.
The continuing development of corporate responsibility initiatives around the world – whether by individual companies, organizations or through collaborative efforts – is a very positive sign. “The great diversity of CR initiatives reflects the diversity that exists within business and societies and should be encouraged as a source of richness and innovation. It is vital that the UN and others continue to recognize the value that this brings to promoting CR and continue to support the full range of CR initiatives,” Mr Belfrage added.
“In this context, ICC believes that the role of the United Nations should be to promote CR broadly, including through the continued creation of new initiatives – whether local, regional or global – and to support their development,” Mr Sebban said.
While a number of measures have been taken to improve the Global Compact’s internal governance, the Compact’s status within the UN system and its accountability to its participating companies should be clarified and further strengthened.
The benefits of CR are many, but it must be recognized that the best and most effective way for business to contribute to sustainable development is by creating wealth for its owners, employees, customers and society at large. No other human activity matches private enterprise in its ability to assemble people, capital, and innovation in order to create meaningful jobs and produce goods and services profitably.
Business and other principal stakeholders in civil society can together, in the context of responsible global citizenship promoted by the Global Compact, increasingly help shape the international agenda and policy development on global economic and social issues so as to encourage and support government actions for a more stable, inclusive and rules-based global system.