Global Compact Champions and Practitioners Take Stock of Joint Sustainability Efforts, Chart Course Towards Rio

May 18, 2011 12:00 PM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) Copenhagen - 18 May 2011 - Corporate sustainability experts from nearly 100 nations are meeting in Copenhagen today for the first-ever Annual Meeting of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest initiative to promote environmental and social responsibility in business. The gathering, part of a five-day Global Compact week, aims to help sustainability practitioners develop a better sense of the linkages between the wide range of sustainability issues and the ways in which they can advance better performance in their own organizations.

Opening the meeting’s first plenary session, Søren Pind, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, stressed the nature of the Global Compact as a public-private effort to advance development and growth. “The issues at heart in the Global Compact are important to the long-term viability and success of companies. But they are equally fundamental to sustainable development,” the Minister said. “Embedding the principles of the Global Compact in day-to-day business operations and building a sustainable supply chain can deliver many rewards. 

Mads Øvlisen, Head of the Global Compact’s Supply Chain Sustainability Working Group and the day’s master of ceremonies, pointed out that despite the initiative’s strength, it “has never been more challenged than we are today.” He noted that only a fraction of the world’s estimated 70,000 multinational corporations are actually engaging in the Global Compact.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Vice Chair of the Global Compact Board and Chair of the Foundation for the Global Compact, introduced the key findings of the Global Compact’s 2010 Annual Review, which will be officially released in early June. The Annual Review is based on a comprehensive implementation survey of more than 1,200 corporate participants in the Global Compact – the most comprehensive sustainability-related survey worldwide.

Presenting an overview of the Global Compact’s evolution and status quo, Georg Kell, the Global Compact’s Executive Director, highlighted that corporate sustainability has moved from morality to materiality, explaining that the business case for responsible behavior is much better understood. He reiterated the initiative’s goal to reach 20,000 participants (from its current 6,000) by 2020. “As we have grown, the challenge is how to drive quantity while maintaining quality,” he added.

Discussing the private sector role in advancing sustainable development, Brice Lalonde, the UN’s Executive Coordinator for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), called for “a new industrial revolution” and expressed his hope that the Rio Conference will offer a “roadmap for a green economy” that will help pave the way for the coming decades. 

Following a series of interactive roundtable discussions between participants, Danish Environment Minister Karen Ellemann urged for stronger commitments and more action in preparation for the Rio conference. “The green economy agenda is about making the market work for sustainable development,” said the Minister. 

The Annual Meeting will conclude with an afternoon session to address how the Global Compact – through its working groups, issue platforms, Local Networks and sister initiatives – can mobilize a coordinated and powerful business contribution to advance environmental and social goals, particularly in the context of the Rio+20 conference.