Corporate Progress on Environmental and Social Issues is Tangible, But Far from Sufficient, Global Survey Shows

Jun 7, 2011 11:00 AM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) New York, NY - June 7, 2011 – When it comes to broad implementation of responsible business practices, company size matters most. And while businesses around the world seem to be making tangible progress in addressing environmental concerns, many continue to struggle in the human rights and anti-corruption arena. 

These are among the findings of the UN Global Compact’s latest Implementation Survey, one of the most comprehensive global surveys on corporate sustainability performance. Completed anonymously by more than 1,200 companies participating in the UN corporate responsibility initiative, the survey forms the basis of 2010 the Global Compact Annual Review, which was launched at UN Headquarters today.   Among the key findings: 
  • Large and publicly traded companies are performing at higher levels on all of the Global Compact’s issue areas (human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption) than small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), pointing to the availability of greater financial and human resources to support extensive sustainability programs.

  • Reflective of the growing relevance of sustainability issues to business performance, more than 70 percent of all respondents indicate the active involvement of their chief executives in policy and strategy development. Nearly 60 percent of all publicly traded companies report active involvement of their boards of directors.

  • Companies across the board report having anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies in place – one of the few issues to transcend size or sector. Yet, less than 20 percent of all respondents report conducting human rights impact assessments and less than 30 percent record instances of corruption, with dramatic differences between SMEs and larger companies.  

  • Concerning supply chain implementation of sustainability principles, widely seen as critical in order to bring corporate responsibility to true scale, 65 percent of companies report some measure of supplier involvement, with 12 percent requiring their suppliers to be Global Compact participants.

  • Likewise, 79 percent of companies spread their commitment to the Global Compact principles to their subsidiaries, with nearly half of those (44 percent) creating separate sustainability functions at the subsidiary level. 

  • Increasingly, businesses are recognizing the role of the private sector in advancing UN development objectives. Over half (56 percent) of survey respondents are engaged in some form of public-private partnership at the global or local level. Reflecting a broader trend by business to build on the growing sustainability market, 42 percent of all respondents said that they are developing products and services or designing business models that seek to contribute to UN priorities. 

“While the sustainability movement has taken great strides in recent years, significant challenges remain,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “Helping smaller companies close performance gaps, stimulating collective action on all fronts and making a stronger case for human rights and anti-corruption engagement will be critical if we are to bring corporate responsibility to scale.”   Overall, the Global Compact continued to grow in 2010 and now includes more than 6,000 business participants, as well as more than 3,000 non-business signatories. More than half of all businesses in the initiative are small and medium-size enterprises. The countries with the highest numbers of participants are France, Spain, the US and Brazil.   About the UN Global Compact Launched in 2000, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies around the world to align their strategies and operations with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take action in support of broader UN goals. Through the development, implementation, and disclosure of responsible corporate policies and practices, business can help ensure that markets advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere. With more than 6,000 corporate signatories in over 135 countries, it is the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative.   About the Global Compact Implementation Survey Launched in 2008, the Global Compact Implementation Survey is an annual, anonymous online survey of Global Compact participants worldwide to take stock of environmental and social performance and identify trends and developments related to corporate sustainability issues. All 6,000+ companies participating in the Global Compact were invited to take the 2010 survey - available in multiple languages - which was conducted in November/December 2010. The survey was administered and analysed by a team of MBA and doctoral candidates at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.   The survey received 1,251 responses from 103 countries - a response rate of over 20 percent. The 2010 survey is generally representative of the Global Compact participant base, especially in terms of region and year that a company joined the initiative.   About the Global Compact Annual Review 2010 The Annual Review 2010 is organized following the three dimensions of the Global Compact Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability Leadership, a model for achieving higher levels of sustainability performance. This review assesses how – and to what extent – participating companies are implementing the ten principles; taking action in support of broader UN goals and issues; and engaging with the Global Compact locally and globally. At the center of the review are the findings from the 2010 Global Compact Implementation Survey.   In addition, the Annual Review provides detailed updates on the Global Compact’s growth, strategic and operational priorities, governance and finances. Note to editors: Using both terms interchangeably, the UN Global Compact defines corporate sustainability or corporate responsibility as a company’s delivery of long-term value in financial, social, environmental and ethical terms – covering all ten principles of the Global Compact.   UNGC14355