Hundreds of business leaders attending a United Nations meeting in Geneva today pledged to comply with labour, human rights, environmental and anti-corruption standards in a wide-ranging declaration on making globalization more beneficial to the world's people.
At the second UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, top executives of corporations such as Coca-Cola, Petrobras, Fuji Xerox, China Ocean Shipping Group, Tata Steel, L M Ericsson and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria adopted the 21-point Geneva Declaration, which spells out concrete actions for business, governments and UN Global Compact participants.
Some 4,000 organizations from 116 countries – among them trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some 3,100 businesses – have so far subscribed to the Global Compact, pledging to observe ten universal principles related to human rights, labour rights, the environment and the struggle against corruption.
The Geneva Declaration calls for urgent action. “Poverty, income inequality, protectionism and the absence of decent work opportunities pose serious threats to world peace and markets,” it says.
“Business, as a key agent of globalization, can be an enormous force for good,” participants declared, adding that companies, by committing themselves to corporate citizenship, can create and deliver value in the widest possible terms. Globalization can thus act as an accelerator for spreading universal principles, creating a values-oriented competition for a “race to the top.”
Summing up the outcome of the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told participants that their reports showed how market leadership and sustainability leadership go hand-in-hand. “This will help us build the supportive measures needed to create more sustainable markets. And it will ultimately help improve the lives of many people around the world,” he said.
Mr. Ban called on business leaders to convene board meetings to share developments at the Summit, and ensure that the Global Compact is fully carried out within their companies and through their suppliers and partners.
Civil society and labour leaders should “remain vigilant and engaged and continue to hold businesses accountable for their commitments,” said the Secretary-General. He called on governments to support the Global Compact as a unique public-private partnership initiative. And he called on the UN to integrate the Global Compact principles throughout the Organization.
“Together, through the Geneva Declaration, we have deepened our collective commitment to embedding universal values in economies and markets,” Mr. Ban said. “Let us each do our share to give practical meaning to the Declaration.”
Anglo American Chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart saw progress at the meeting. “At the first summit three years ago, many companies subscribed to the Global Compact principles because it sounded like the right thing to do, but did not really know how to put them into practice,” he said. “We are now moving forward towards implementation.”
Today, a Ministerial Roundtable chaired by General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed al Khalifa discussed the role of governments in promoting responsible corporate citizenship. Six parallel sessions focused on human rights, labour, climate change and the environment, UN-business partnerships, corruption and responsible investment.
Global as well as local initiatives were launched at the Summit. Through the “Caring for Climate” platform, Chief executive officers (CEOs) of 150 companies from around the world, including 30 from the Fortune Global 500, pledged to speed up action on climate change and called on governments to agree as soon as possible on Kyoto follow-up measures to secure workable and inclusive climate market mechanisms.
The CEOs of six corporations – The Coca-Cola Company, Levi Strauss & Co., Läckeby Water Group, Nestlé S.A., SABMiller and Suez – urged their business peers everywhere to take immediate action to address the global water crisis. They launched the “CEO Water Mandate,” a project designed to help companies to better manage water use in their operations and throughout their supply chains.
Also launched at the Summit, the “Principles for Responsible Investment” seek to disseminate the tenets of corporate citizenship among capital markets. The “Principles for Responsible Management Education” aim to take the case for universal values and business into business schools around the world.
Over 1,000 people registered for the Summit – most from companies, but also from government entities, international organizations, international business organizations, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, foundations and international labour organizations.
The first Global Compact Leaders Summit took place in New York in 2004, and the next is planned for 2010.