(New York) – The UN Global Compact Office wishes to correct, clarify, and respond to several points raised in the Joint Civil Society Statement titled “Ending Corporate Capture of the United Nations” recently issued by ten organizations.
In doing so, the Global Compact Office is not representing the UN system as a whole, but rather only the Global Compact initiative.
The Global Compact, from its inception, has recognized the importance of involving the private sector in partnerships that can contribute to broad UN objectives and priorities, including the Millennium Development Goals. Global Compact signatories, in fact, commit to pursuing such partnerships as part of their fundamental adherence to the initiative and its ten principles. Importantly, partnerships and other business actions in support of UN goals are not an alternative to implementation of the principles and reporting, but rather an essential complement. Over the years, signatories have engaged in numerous partnerships that have resulted in significant and quantifiable benefits to communities and economies around the world – on issues as diverse as human rights, anti-corruption, water and ecosystems, and food and agriculture. Many of these projects and their outcomes are detailed in publicly available Global Compact reports and within individual reports by companies posted on the Global Compact’s public website.
The evidence, therefore, is overwhelmingly clear: the private sector can play an extremely positive role with respect to contributing to UN objectives and goals. This fact is now well established and explains the decision by numerous international and local civil society organizations to collaborate with the private sector.
The Global Compact is a thoroughly multi-stakeholder initiative, uniting the business community with civil society, governments, UN entities, and other stakeholders. The Global Compact involves business and other stakeholders in implementing the agenda of the UN, which is ultimately set by Member States, rather than providing channels for the private sector to influence that agenda with their individual business interests. With respect to civil society, scores of civil society organizations have been and are actively involved in partnership projects and other initiatives with Global Compact signatories. These civil society organizations and the related projects are also identified on the Global Compact’s public website.
The Joint Civil Society Statement alleges that the Global Compact gives the false impression that “the UN and TNCs [transnational corporations] share the same goals”. The Global Compact Office has never made such a claim. In fact, the Global Compact’s standard and well-documented general presentation makes clear that the UN and the business community do not share the same core objectives; merely, that in some key areas, business, civil society, the UN, and governments have common areas of interest – most prominently in the broad area of inclusive and sustainable development.
Experience has shown that – contrary to the assertion made in the Joint Statement – business can simultaneously contribute positively to societal goals while also achieving business success. In the opinion of the Global Compact Office, there is no reason to object to this notion of shared value creation, particularly as it motivates more companies to engage in solving key global challenges.
While the Global Compact is a voluntary initiative, and has always stated that it should not be seen as a substitute for effective regulation, it is untrue that signatories do not adhere to internationally accepted standards, as the Joint Statement claims. In fact, participating companies commit to implementing ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption – all derived from UN Conventions and Declarations.
Finally, and crucially, the Global Compact incorporates a strict accountability mechanism. Global Compact signatories must report annually on their implementation of the ten principles, or risk expulsion. Since 2005, the Global Compact Office has publicly expelled more than 3000 companies for failure to report on progress. These expelled companies are listed on the Global Compact website. View full list of expelled companies here.