Global Compact Leaders Summit brings together more than 1,200 leaders from business, civil society and governments to assess state of corporate responsibility and chart course towards new era of sustainability
More than one thousand corporate leaders from around the world were urged by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to lead a “race to the top”, embracing openness, anchoring profit-making in social principles and favouring long-term horizons over pursuit of short-term profits.
The Secretary-General was joined by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the opening of a two-day international summit of business and civil society leaders, sponsored by the UN’s Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative.
The greatest needs exist in the developing world, the Secretary-General said, but that is also where some of the greatest economic dynamism is coming from.
“Global economic growth requires investment in the developing world,” he said. “With official development assistance under pressure, foreign direct investment is that much more important.” He noted as well partnership opportunities by which businesses can support achievement of the world’s anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals.
The Global Compact, with over 6,000 signatory businesses from 135 countries, is now the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative, and a vehicle for linking profits and social advancement, the Secretary-General said. Civil society, academic and labour participants bring the total to more than 8,000 participating organizations. The Secretary-General expressed his hope that the Global Compact become a “truly transformative movement”, reaching 20,000 participants by 2020.
Mayor Bloomberg – noting that he was speaking as a former CEO as well as an elected official — said that good corporate citizens recognize that support for human rights is in their enlightened self interest.
“The future belongs to companies ensuring diversity and dignity in the work place,” he said, noting also that recent events show the importance of transparency in business affairs.
Also speaking at the 24 June morning session of the Leaders Summit, Unilever CEO Paul Polman said, “We have reached a tipping point. Business as usual is not possible.” Consumers demand that corporations adhere to high levels of responsibility, he said.
The Global Compact Leaders Summit also marks the tenth anniversary of the initiative, launched in July 2000 with then forty-four business making a commitment to adopt universal human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles in their strategies and day-to-day operations.