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Private companies must boost efforts to implement sustainable policies – UN report

Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Georg Kell.
UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Georg Kell.

Private companies must boost efforts to implement sustainable policies – UN report

While private companies have made progress in recent years in addressing sustainability issues, more needs to be done to close the gap between talk and action on social responsibility, according to a United Nations report released today.

The Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013, released by the UN Global Compact, found that many companies are defining goals and setting policies but still have much work to do in terms of implementing these policies. For example, 65 per cent of the companies who too part in the report develop sustainability policies at the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) level, while only 35 per cent train managers to integrate sustainability into strategies and operations.

The report surveyed nearly 2,000 companies across 113 countries, and provides a snapshot of the actions taken by businesses to embed responsible practices into their strategies, operations and culture.

The report also stresses that commitment to sustainability principles such as the protection of human rights, transparency and accountability, environmental stewardship and social inclusion affect companies’ performance.

“Corporate sustainability is serious business. It influences long-term financial success. What used to be external to the company is now internal,” the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Georg Kell, told reporters in New York.

“Social issues such as poverty are also business issues and businesses can take on them proactively and be part of the solution or continue to ignore them at their own risk.”

The report also found that while small and large companies are committing to the UN Global Compact in equal numbers, larger companies are significantly more likely to move beyond commitment to action across all issue areas. However, the survey also notes that smaller companies are increasingly taking steps to catch up to their larger peers.

Supply chains are a major obstacle to implement sustainability policies, the report states. Even though the majority of companies have established sustainability expectations for their suppliers, they have the challenge of tracking their compliance and help suppliers reach their goals in this matter.

Mr. Kell added that despite challenges, more companies are recognizing the importance of sustainable practices and are joining the Global Compact to align their core business strategies with UN principles and global development priorities.

Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative, with more than 8,000 companies in some 144 countries. It seeks

The report will provide the backdrop for the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013: Architects of a Better World on 19-20 September in New York. The Summit will bring together 1,000 chief executives and leaders from civil society, government and the UN.