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Annan urges corporate responsibility in accord with UN Global Compact

Annan urges corporate responsibility in accord with UN Global Compact

Welcoming the growing engagement of the United Nations with the private sector, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for responsible corporate behaviour in line with his Global Compact initiative.

“More and more businesses are themselves recognizing how much they depend on international norms and standards for the conduct of business on a global scale, and on the UN’s wide-ranging work for peace and development,” he said during an address in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management.

Mr. Annan explained that his Global Compact initiative, launched in 1999, “was based on the belief that open markets and human well-being can go hand in hand.” The Compact requires participating enterprises to embrace nine principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards and the environment, and to enact those principles within their spheres of influence.

Since its inception, the Secretary-General said, the Compact has promoted the importance of universal values and encouraged investors to look harder at opportunities in the least developed countries, particularly in Africa. Noting that the Compact has also created a learning forum – a worldwide academic network that examines case studies, Mr. Annan hailed the Sloan School for its “important role” in the effort.

“Businesses may ask why they should go down this path, especially if it involves taking steps that competitors might not, or steps they feel are rightly the province of governments,” he said. “Sometimes, doing what is right – for example, eco-efficiency or creating decent work-place conditions – is in the immediate interest of business.”

At the same time, the Secretary-General pointed to the moral imperative of acting with integrity. “Sometimes, we must do what is right simply because not to do so would be wrong, and sometimes, we do what is right to help usher in a new day, of new norms and new behaviours,” he said. “We do not want business to do anything different from their normal business; we want them to do their normal business differently.”

From 1971 to 1972, the Secretary-General was a Sloan Fellow at MIT, where he received a Masters of Science degree in management.