Life with purpose
Why is the UN Global Compact Important?
The Basics

Why is the UN Global Compact Important?

The Basics is a series exploring the essential questions of purposeful business.
5th Oct 2021

What is the UN Global Compact?

Corporations have been given a call to action. In 2000, the United Nations launched the most ambitious corporate sustainability pact yet, designed to encourage companies to align their strategies and operations with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The Global Compact is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world, with over 13,000 companies and stakeholders spread across 170 countries, all striving to transform business into a force for good. 

So how does that work in practice?

The UNGC consists of Ten Principles that are spread across key areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. They are designed to be a guidebook for businesses to make the process of becoming a force for good as accessible as possible, with direction on what to aim for and what to avoid

Sounds good! Are companies assessed according to those principles?

Here’s the catch: the Global Compact is not binding or regulatory. It relies on the corporate world to strive for higher standards of ethical business. Rather than providing certification or sanctions, the UN aims to provide resources, education and support for organisations. 

It’s a space for collaboration, discussion and communication between private corporations, governments, labour organisations and civil society organisations. As Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the Global Compact put it in a 2015 interview, “we are the guide dogs, not the watchdogs.”

Is that effective?

While its lack of regulation has drawn some criticism, the UNGC provides an unparalleled blueprint that lays out, step by step, what businesses need to do in order to have a neutral – or even positive – impact on our planet. 

At the end of the day, all businesses (even the really big ones) are made up of individuals who are also parents, partners, sons, daughters, friends – we all have a stake in the future of our planet. By providing a framework for organisations to follow, the UNGC has mapped out a path to a brighter, more sustainable and equitable future for all of us.

Further reading… 

“It’s very important for businesses to be clear on what their purpose is.”

Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, in our new documentary, The Purpose of Capitalism: Lessons from Japan
The Purpose of Capitalism: Lessons from Japan premieres on CNBC in October

Japan’s unique business worldview

The Purpose of Capitalism: Insights from Japan documentary takes an inside look at some of the largest and oldest Japanese companies to find the answer. It premieres on CNBC in October.

To read more about the film and be the first to receive insights and updates, click here.