The UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013: Architects of a Better World took place on 19-20 September in New York. The event brought together representatives from the business community to set the stage for business to shape and advance the post-2015 development agenda and put forward a framework for business to contribute to global priorities, such as climate change, water, food, women’s empowerment, children’s rights, decent jobs, and education, at unprecedented levels. The Global Compact comprises 8,000 companies and 4,000 civil society organisations from 145 countries.
Several major projects and documents were released during the summit. One of the most anticipated ones was the New Global Architecture for Corporate Sustainability designed to “drive and scale up corporate actions to directly advance United Nations goals,” according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It provides an overview of plans to link business engagement with global priorities, in particular around the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and expected Sustainable Development Goals (details to be unveiled by the Secretary General this week). Further, the architecture has already been endorsed by both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
In addition to the existing UN Global Compact programmes, three new programmes were launched on education, agriculture, and peace. Additionally, a new Business Partnership Hub will provide a space online for the business community to post projects around the UN Global Compact’s different themes. Further, the summit officially launched the PRME Champions leadership group (more details to follow in an upcoming blog post).
The summit also saw the launch of several major reports. The Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013 looks at the state of corporate sustainability today – providing an in-depth review of the actions taken by companies around the world to embed responsible practices into their strategies, operations and culture. The report is based on the results form a survey with nearly 2,000 companies across 113 countries. The Report shows that companies are doing a good job at making commitments, defining goals and setting policies but still have a lot of work to do on putting these into practice. Larger companies are more likely to put these strategies into action than smaller companies however small companies are increasingly taking steps to catch up with their larger peers. Sustainability in the supply chain is not just one of the key actions in sustainability within companies but also one of the biggest roadblocks because tracking compliance is a challenge.
UN Global Compact – Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013: Architects of a Better World surveyed 1,000 CEOs and includes in depth interviews with 75 of them. The report says that more than two thirds of chief executives – 67% – believe that business is not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges. Seventy eight percent see sustainability as a route to growth and innovation and 79% believe that it will lead to competitive advantage in their industry. Respondents also site lack of financial resources, a failure to make the link between sustainability and business value as challenges. CEOs are demanding greater collaboration between business, governments and policymakers as well as increased regulations, standards, subsidies and incentives to support their sustainability efforts.
Global Compact 100 is a stock index of companies committed to the UNGC’s ten principles which tracked the stock market performance of GC companies during the past three years, comparing the results against a broad market benchmark, the FTSE All World. Released in partnership with research firm Sustainanalytics, the index shows a total investment return of 26.4% during the past year, surpassing the general global stock market (22.1%). “While the performance of the GC 100 should not be seen as clear evidence of a causal relationship between a commitment to corporate sustainability practices and stock performance, there appears to be an exciting correlation,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director the UN Global Compact. “Moreover, the results may also reflect the fact that sustainability performance is a factor that is receiving increasing interest from investors.”
Corporate Sustainability and the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda, based on consultations and surveys with thousands of businesses in all major regions, contains business perspectives and recommendations in three areas: determining the core of a post 2015 agenda, including suggested sustainable development goals and targets; how to engage business and investors towards sustainable development goals; and recommending ways that Governments can advance inclusive and sustainable markets. The proposed goals are: 1) End poverty and increase prosperity via inclusive economic growth; 2) Quality education for all; 3) Achieve women’s and girls’ empowerment; 4) Universal health coverage; 5) Good nutrition for all through sustainable food and agricultural systems; 6) Water and sanitation for all; 7) Sustainable energy for all; 8) Build peaceful and stable societies; 9) Modernize infrastructure and technology; and 10) Good governance and realization of human rights.
The Africa Sustainability Barometer was also launched, covering more than 1,000 international companies with operations in the region, as well as local and regional companies. It gauges the state of corporate sustainability reporting and is a joint initiative between the UNGC and the Financial Times.
The Smartest Investment: A framework for Business engagement in education was launched at the event as a joint initiative between UNESCO, UNICEF, UNGC, and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education. The report makes that case that education is not only good for society but also good for business and charts the means to realize business benefits while advancing education goals.
Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles, launched in collaboration with key civil society organizations, the Principles were developed in response to the need for a common understanding between existing standards and industry initiatives. The Principles will provide a framework for furthering good practice and for developing effective private and public sector policies and partnerships.
For more news about the event visit the UN Global Compact website.