Giving a Human Face to the Global Market

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan created the UN Global Compact nearly two decades ago with the purpose to “give a human face to the global market”. Today, our founding mission is more important than ever.

The world is facing a complicated web of multi-dimensional, interconnected, systemic challenges, while the gap between rich and poor as well as protectionism is rising. The past has clearly shown that economic integration is crucial for advancing peace, sustainable development and human rights. And from a business perspective, modern-day success is built on the pillars of global cooperation and interdependence. Consequently, globalization must become a much more inclusive, human, respectful force that leaves no one behind.

The good news is that we have never had a more clear and compelling path forward for our world. With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement in force, we have a powerful common agenda for achieving peace and prosperity on a healthy planet by 2030 – with an essential role spelled out for business in this transformation to a sustainable future. The SDGs provide a blueprint for how to address the complex challenges the world faces. But time is passing fast, with only 14 years to go!

Strong Leadership in Demand

Fulfilling the ambitious SDGs will require true leadership. We will need strategic, creative and pioneering corporate leaders and entrepreneurs who can build the sustainable world of tomorrow: CEOs who personify the kind of integrity that makes them role models for the new era. Through responsible and innovative leadership, we can help turn the threats of globalization into opportunities by giving a human face to the global markets.

Thanks to the commitment of more than 9,000 CEOs – like yourself – located in nearly every country, huge strides have been made in placing values and principles into the heart of many companies. Increasingly, principled business is simply good business. But there is a long way to go, and we rely on you to help ensure that business is a positive force for the world.

To jumpstart awareness and action on the SDGs, in 2016 we kicked off our Making Global Goals Local Business campaign. Here in New York and through our 80 Local Networks, we are seeing companies respond to the SDG vision, telling us that the global goals provide a guiding star for a world in constant change. The sustainable development agenda is the next frontier for responsible practices, building new markets and developing solutions – and companies are ready to take action.

Launching our 2030 Vision and Global Strategy

At the UN Global Compact, we will be a leading catalyst of the transformations ahead and are devoting our capacities and global network to make it happen – based on the Ten Principles that the UN Global Compact is built upon. We are updating our organization, business model and offerings, so that we are in the best position to help companies of all sizes and at all stages of sustainability.

In the past year, we have articulated a 2030 Vision – to mobilize a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want – and developed a global strategy that positions the UN Global Compact to deliver impact at scale. To prepare our strategy, we consulted over 1,500 stakeholders – across business, civil society, Local Networks, UN partners and governments – on our unique role.

We heard a clear desire for the UN Global Compact to leverage our core strengths – as a normative, principle-based and inclusive UN entity – in order to bring the full weight of the private sector to the new SDGs. This means amplifying existing work to promote UN principles and values to the business community, focusing more on impact to better show the effects of corporate sustainability, and facilitating UN-business partnerships. Strengthening the role of our Local Networks on the ground will be a top priority across the board.

The strategy also points in new, exciting directions, including a pivot towards the SDGs to enable a powerful global business contribution to UN goals, as well as becoming a “Platform of Platforms” curating the best practices, tools and initiatives of like-minded organizations to reduce duplication and increase impact.

In 2017, we are delighted to roll out activities to help companies advance the Ten Principles and the SDGs. This includes new Action Platforms – for example on breakthrough innovation, impact reporting, low-carbon development, and inclusion—as well as sharing and learning opportunities. Our flagship events—Making Global Goals Local Business – India (New Delhi, 26-27 April) and the UN Private Sector Forum / Global Compact Leaders Summit (New York, week of 18 Sept)—provide dynamic settings for participants to connect and shape the future, as will local gatherings through our Local Networks.

Please see our UN Global Compact 2017 Toolbox for more detail on the year ahead.

As you can see, taking shared responsibility for our world’s challenges is the hallmark of our organization and what makes the UN Global Compact unique in an ever-growing corporate sustainability arena. To deliver on this agenda, we must update our business model. Beginning in January 2018, we will ask all companies with annual revenues over USD $50 million to make a required annual contribution, while preserving the voluntary nature for smaller enterprises. Details on the new business model will be introduced during the year in collaboration with your Local Network.

The bottom line is that with greater financial support globally and in our Local Networks, we can provide the best value to you and fully advance our shared vision of a better world.

Roadmap for Success in 2017

2017 marks the beginning of a new era of action and impact for the UN Global Compact.

We will take the first steps of our new strategy under new leadership. For the past 10 years, we have thrived under UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who has been a true champion of our initiative. We are delighted that the new UN Secretary-General, H.E. António Guterres, has shared his support for our work and will serve as Chair of the UN Global Compact Board, continuing an important legacy and providing a huge source of inspiration for us all.

It is indeed an exciting year ahead. The SDGs open up enormous opportunity for business to be a force for good. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with companies everywhere to turn risks into opportunities, make global goals local business, and accelerate momentum towards the SDGs.

Thank you for your commitment to this mission and for being part of our global movement of responsible companies. Together, we can create the world we want – now and for the coming generations.

Posted by Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director, UN Global Compact on 13 January 2017