Over the last several years, the United Nations has become a trailblazer in promoting corporate responsibility. “In the 11 years since its launch, the United Nations Global Compact has been at the forefront of the UN’s effort to make the private sector a critical actor in advancing sustainability,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the 2011 edition of the Global Compact International Yearbook. Edited by the German publishing house macondo, the new Yearbook offers insights on political as well as sustainability issues.
Exemplary entrepreneurial commitments can foster and create incentives for other companies. To guide companies along this road, they need a blueprint for corporate sustainability. This is the focal topic of the new Global Compact International Yearbook. Guidelines for consumer standards and labels, an analysis of the new ISO 26000 SR Standard, and a debate about the historic changes in the Arab world are other major topics explored. Among this year’s prominent authors are Lord Michael Hastings, NGO activist Sasha Courville, and the former Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze.
Blueprint for corporate sustainability
A couple of years ago, corporate responsibility topics were merely a “nice to have” item in many executive offices. It was something dealt with after hours. That has changed for good. Corporate sustainability today is a “must have.” Lord Michael Hastings therefore demands: “I want leaders that are highly intelligent, politically astute, understanding of society, as well and generous.” Interviews and background reports disclose the main features of a responsibility blueprint and illustrate if corporate social responsibility can lessen the impact of a crisis or lead to a faster recovery.
A look at the new social media illustrates this and shows how companies have to weave corporate accountability with interactive technologies. But it is not only about reputation and communication, it is also about respecting fundamental rights like human rights – Global Compact participants have committed to support and respect human rights and to avoid complicity in human rights abuses. With the Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum, the UN Global Compact, Maplecroft, and the GE Foundation have made it their mission to inform businesses of the practical implications of their responsibilities to respect human rights.
Eco-labels: Signed, sealed …delivered?
Today’s supply chains span the globe. Whereas a century ago we might have known where, how, and who produced the things we consume, today we rely on what we are told. But how can we be sure that we can trust what we are told? In the 33 years since the world’s first eco-label appeared (Germany’s Blue Angel), this type of labeling has proliferated. The Ecolabel Index currently lists 377 schemes in 211 countries and 25 industry sectors. ISEAL Director Sasha Courville asks economy leaders to respect sustainability standards. An interesting phenomenon is described by Patrin Watanatada and Mark Lee from the well-known SustainAbility think tank and consultancy: Eco-labels are moving into developing countries. Eco-labels have been primarily a developed-country phenomenon, but the Ecolabel Index includes dozens of labels used in developing countries as well. Is there an opportunity for developing countries to take the lead? Courville reminds us: “While the shift in power and wealth toward new global players in the South – as outlined by Ban Ki-moon – is indeed fundamentally changing the CSR landscape, it is important to note that this is current and dynamic, with the implications yet to be fully understood or even determined.”
At the moment, there are probably only a few political developments that have the global and historical dimensions of the so-called Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East. The Global Compact International Yearbook takes the opportunity to discuss the political, social, and environmental aspects in a new section called “Inside.” Lausanne Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann asks whether the Arab Spring will free the “orphans of globalization,” and continues: “But where will all this lead? The Arab world is undoubtedly on the march, but the destination remains unknown. As things stand in mid-2011 – some four months following the Jasmine Revolution – six possible scenarios emerge: the Poland scenario, the Turkey scenario, the Iran scenario, the Philippines scenario, the Chile scenario, and the Yugoslavia scenario.”
In addition, the Yearbook illustrates the role of the UN Global Compact in the MENA region. Also worth mentioning is wasta: How the use of “connections” impacts private sector development in Arab countries and why. Background articles about renewable energy and improving labor standards performance in the Middle East complete this chapter.
The Global Compact International Yearbook 2011 also includes 44 best practice examples from different companies, which illustrate how to implement the Global Compact’s Ten Principles in daily business and projects. UN Secretary-General Ban adds: “This third Global Compact International Yearbook once again presents a broad range of illuminating stories of businesses using the platform provided by the Compact to make a difference through their own conduct or in partnership with others.”