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Global Compact

UN Global Compact
Org type framework and mechanism
Acronyms UNGC
Head Georg Kell, Executive Director
Status Active
Established 26 July 2000

The United Nations Global Compact, also known as Compact or UNGC, is a United Nations initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. The Global Compact is a principle-based framework for businesses, stating ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Under the Compact, companies are brought together with UN agencies, labour groups and civil society.

The Global Compact is the world's largest corporate citizenship initiative with two objectives: "Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world" and "Catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."[1]

The Compact was announced by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an address to The World Economic Forum on January 31, 1999,[2] and was officially launched at UN Headquarters in New York on July 26, 2000.

The Global Compact Office is supported by six UN agencies: the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; the United Nations Environment Programme; the International Labour Organization; the United Nations Development Programme; the United Nations Industrial Development Organization; and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Ten Principles

The Global Compact was initially launched with nine Principles. June 24, 2004, during the first Global Compact Leaders Summit, Kofi Annan announced the addition of the tenth principle against corruption in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption adopted in 2003.

Human Rights
Businesses should:

  • Principle 1: Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  • Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labour Standards
Businesses should uphold:

Businesses should:

  • Principle 7: support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  • Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote environmental responsibility; and
  • Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.



The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument, but rather a forum for discussion and a network for communication including governments, companies and labour organisations, whose actions it seeks to influence, and civil society organizations, representing its stakeholders. The Compact says that once companies declared their support for the principles "This does not mean that the Global Compact recognizes or certifies that these companies have fulfilled the Compact’s principles."

The Compact's goals are intentionally flexible and vague, but it distinguishes the following channels through which it provides facilitation and encourages dialogue: policy dialogues, learning, local networks and projects.


The first Global Compact Leaders Summit, chaired by the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was held in UN Headquarters in New York on June 24, 2004, to bring "intensified international focus and increased momentum" to the Compact. On the eve of the conference, delegates were invited to attend the first Prix Ars Electronica Digital Communities award ceremony, which was co-hosted by a representative from the UN.

The second Global Compact Leaders Summit, chaired by Secretary-General Geneva Declaration on corporate responsibility.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Compact's launch, the Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010 took place on 24–25 June 2010 in New York.[3] On the occasion, the Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability Leadership [4] identifying leadership criteria linked to implementation of the ten principles, efforts to support development objectives, and engagement in the Global Compact was released. The document was supported by Fondation Guilé.

The UN Global Compact – Cities Programme

In 2001, the City of Melbourne proposed that cities as well as corporations should be allowed to join the UN Global Compact, arguing that this would provide a clear statement of a city's commitment to positive change, as well as motivating participation in international dialogue. The proposal was accepted, and the UN Global Compact Cities Programme was launched in 2002. It was formed as an urban-focused component of the Global Compact with its International Secretariat initially located in Melbourne, Australia. The aim of the programme is to improve urban life in cities throughout the world.

Melbourne became the first city to engage the Global Compact in June 2001. There are, as of 2012, over 50 member cities in the programme.

In April 2003, under the directorship of David Teller, a framework called the Melbourne Model was developed that went beyond the Ten Principles. It begins by drawing the resources of government, business and civil society into a cross-sector partnership in order to develop a practical project that addresses a seemingly intractable urban issue. In 2007, the current Director, Paul James and his colleagues Dr Andy Scerri and Dr Liam Magee, took this methodology further by integrating the partnership model with a four-domain sustainability framework called 'Circles of Sustainability'.[5]

In 2007, the Secretariat moved from the Committee For Melbourne to the Global Cities Institute at RMIT University, itself affiliated with UN-HABITAT. There, projects associated with city-based responses to global climate change and globalization have become increasingly important. The Melbourne Model was further elaborated, with a sustainability indicators program developed as a way of assessing and monitoring progress.[6] In 2012, the Circles of Sustainability method was elaborated to guide a city or urban region through a rigorous assessment process. As one of the outcomes it provides a figurative image of the overall sustainability of that city to illustrate its strengths and weaknesses.

UN Global Compact In Australia

The United Nations Global Compact Network in Australia was established in 2009 by a steering committee drawn from the Australian business community and stakeholder groups. It was formally incorporated in 2010.[7] as the United Nations Global Compact Network Australia Limited, and elections were held for the inaugural board of directors. In 2011 it established two business-led leadership groups dealing with human rights and anti-corruption.[8] The UNGCNA draws its funding directly from members and member-based activities, in contrast to many networks who rely in part on government funding. Matthew Tukaki, formerly the Head of Drake Australia and currently CEO and Chairman of the Sustain Group, was elected Australia's first United Nations Global Compact Network Representative in 2010.[9]

UN Global Compact in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria UN Global Compact was founded in January 2003, under the auspices of President Georgi Parvanov. The voluntary initiative unites 120 Bulgarian companies, non-governmental organizations and academia in a unique for Bulgaria network. All members are united around the idea to apply the ten principles of the UN Global Compact in their daily practices and to be responsible corporate citizens.

To strengthen and enhance the role of the initiative in 2006 was introduced management structure consisting of Advisory Board and a Secretariat. For the period 2006-2010 the network activities were supported by the United Nations Development Program Bulgaria. With the active participation and financial contribution of its members Global Compact Bulgaria organized numerous initiatives related to environment, health, education and youth. Among them are the projects: "Unleashing Entrepreneurship"; "Love Bridge"; "Sharing Best Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility".[10]

With the end of the support of UNDP Bulgaria, UN Global Compact Bulgaria had to identify and formulate a new strategy for sustainability. So, between 2009 and 2010 the members signed an institutional framework for future organizational development. As a result, on 10 September 2010 a new independent organization was founded – Association Global Compact Network Bulgaria. It`s members are 20 leading companies and organizations in Bulgaria, members the UN Global Compact as well. The Association is managed by a Steering Committee and  Control Committee. Their main goals are to learn from each other, to communicate, to generate an advocacy impact and initiate dialogue or partnerships with other actors such as the government, local authorities, labour organisations and civil society organizations.[11]

UN Global Compact In France

The United Nations Global Compact Network France was established in 2004. It is the second largest local network of the UN Global Compact after Spain, with 873 members in January 2013. The main aim of the Global Compact France is to add personalized value to the French members of the Global Compact, in order to help them to make progress in their CSR approach and develop the Global Compact network. The network is entirely financed by its members.

UN Global Compact in India

The Global Compact Network (GCN) India was formed by some of the organizations from India who are participating in the United Nation's Global Compact Programme. It was registered on 24 November 2003, with Registrar of Societies, NCT, Delhi, as a non-profit body. The main objective of the Network is to provide a forum to various Indian Companies/ Organizations to exchange experiences, network and work together on activities related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This is expected to promote sustainable growth besides encouraging good corporate citizenship. The Network, acts as an Apex level nodal agency representing various Indian Corporate bodies/ Institutions/ NGOs/ SMEs, who are committed to UN's Global Compact principles.

The Global Compact Network, India has been one of the pioneering local initiatives of the UN Global Compact. It is one of the first local networks to be set up as a legal entity. Over the last 9 years the network has seen modest growth and has been able to create a niche for itself within efforts by the business community directed towards realising the vision sustainable development in India. At present Sudhir Vasudeva, CMD, ONGC is the President of the Global Compact Network India for the term 2011-13 and is managed by governing Council [12]

UN Global Compact In Syria

The Syria initiative aims at enhancing civic engagement and corporate social responsibility of private sector by promoting the ten principles of the UN Global Compact as well as forging partnerships between private sector organizations, public sector institutions and civil society. This initiative is a partnership between the Syrian Government represented by the State Planning Commission and the UNDP Country Office in Syria. It was launched under the patronage of the Head of State Planning Commission and in the presence of the Deputy Chairperson of the UN Global Compact, in July 2008.

The Syria Local Network has 26 businesses, 5 NGO’s, and 5 federations of commerce and industry. It was displayed among 10 selected ones from around the world in the Global Compact Sixth Annual Local Networks Forum. The Syria story was called a “leadership case” and the Syria Network growth ratio was ranked first among the global top ten in 2008. available at[13]

The UNGC National Advisory Council has been formulated and held its founders’ meeting on October 15, 2008, with the participation of leaders from the Syrian private sector, international corporate representatives, local and international civil society organizations, UNDP, the Syrian Government, media and education sectors.


Many civil society organizations believe that without any effective monitoring and enforcement provisions, the Global Compact fails to hold corporations accountable.[14] Moreover, these organizations argue that companies can misuse the Global Compact as a public relations instrument for "bluewash",[15] as an excuse and argument to oppose any binding international regulation on corporate accountability, and as an entry door to increase corporate influence on the policy discourse and the development strategies of the United Nations.[16]

Global Compact Critics

An informal network of organizations and people with concerns about the UN Global Compact, called Global Compact Critics, levels a variety of criticisms at the Global Compact:

  • The compact contains no mechanisms to sanction member companies for non-compliance with the Compact's principles;
  • A corporation's continued participation is not dependent on demonstrated progress;
  • The Global Compact has admitted companies with dubious humanitarian and environmental records in contrast with the principles demanded by the Compact.

Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN

The Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN, which no longer exists, was a campaigning organization of several international NGOs, led by Corpwatch, which highlighted weaknesses in the principles underlying the Global Compact.

Criticism from within the United Nations

The Global Compact has been criticized by several senior UN officials and advisers. In December 2008, Maude Barlow, senior adviser on water issues to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, called the Global Compact "bluewashing".[17] Other vocal critics have been David Andrews, senior adviser on Food Policy and Sustainable Development,[18] and Peter Utting, deputy director of UNRISD.[19]

Indigenous peoples and human rights

Leaders of the tribe Ayoreo Indians in Paraguay have written to the UN Global Compact saying they are "concerned and frustrated" by the inclusion in it of a controversial Brazilian ranching company. The company, Yaguarete Porá, was charged and fined for illegally clearing the Ayoreo’s forests, and concealing evidence of uncontacted Ayoreo living there. The Ayoreo have asked that it be expelled from the Global Compact. Stephen Corry, Director of the international indigenous rights organization, Survival International, has said, "This makes an utter mockery of the UN Global Compact. If the UN doesn’t make sure companies displaying its logos abide by the rules, such initiatives become entirely meaningless. Yaguarete should be forced to leave the compact immediately."[20]

See also


External resources

  • Rasche, A. and Kell, G. (Eds.) (2010) The United Nations Global Compact: Achievement, Trends and Challenges. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kell, G. (2005) The Global Compact: Selected Experiences and Reflection, Journal of Business Ethics, 59: 69–79.
  • Global Policy Forum Europe (Ed. 2007) Whose Partnership for whose development?: Corporate Accountability in the UN System beyond the Global Compact, Speaking Notes of a Hearing at the United Nations, Geneva, 4 July 2007.
  • Debate between Georg Kell and Bart Slob (2008) UN Global Compact – Is the Compact raising corporate responsibility standards?, Ethical Corporation, May 2008.

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