Global perspective Human stories

Business leaders to meet at UN summit on good corporate citizenship

Business leaders to meet at UN summit on good corporate citizenship

John Ruggie
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will host more than 400 corporate executives, government officials and civil society leaders later this month for the largest gathering ever to discuss better corporate practices in human rights, labour and the environment – hallmarks of his Global Compact initiative.

“The impact of the Global Compact has not only been through the community of multinational corporations but also in the developing countries, both in the private sector and also in the public sector, and this is a very unusual feature,” John Ruggie, Mr. Annan’s Special Adviser on the Global Compact, said at a press briefing today on the launch of a report that assesses the initiative’s effect.

The study, carried out by the international management consultancy McKinsey & Company, concludes that the Compact has helped put “corporate responsibility” on the agenda of the developing world.

The survey shows that 67 per cent of respondents changed their corporate policies in relation to human rights, labour and environment principles since joining the Compact, with 40 per cent reporting that the Compact was a significant driver of those changes. The report notes, however, that “inconsistent participation and divergent and unmet expectations limit the impact on companies” and hinders the Compact’s credibility.

Also speaking at today’s briefing, Georg Kell, Executive Head of the Global Compact, noted that corporations have so far lagged behind in the area of human rights relative to environmental and workplace issues. The “big thing,” he said, is to convince chief executives and companies that they can no longer afford to say that human rights are not their business but the job of governments.

Since the Compact was launched in 2000 it has grown rapidly from 50 companies to the nearly 1,500 that participate today, making it the largest voluntary “corporate responsibility” initiative in the world.

The one-day Leaders Summit on 24 June is expected to draw chief executive officers and other senior executives of major international corporations, and is scheduled to hear a keynote address from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil. Participants will assess the progress of the Global Compact, share experiences and chart its future course.


Video of press briefing [31mins]