Towards ethical markets
Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office said global crises are an opportunity to rethink and retool business practices and that UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment will play a critical role in advocating long-term performance.
New Horizons - The Seventh Annual Local Networks Forum was held on 9-10 June at the Sabancı Center in Istanbul, Turkey. Local network representatives, civil society, government and business leaders from all over the world attended the forum to share best practices in advancing the UN Global Compact principles during one of the worst financial crises of the century.
The meeting’s agenda included finding ways of creating long-term sustainability and enhancing corporate social responsibility within the sphere of a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption despite the inexorable economic times. In addition, the Seventh ALNF provided guidance that would contribute to the participants’ production of the annual Communication on Progress; a requirement of the Global Compact which serves to instill accountability, drive continuous improvement, safeguard the integrity of the Global Compact and to develop corporate practices.
Over the course of the two-day meeting, more than 350 participants from 77 countries gathered in Istanbul. The number of participants increased by 60% compared to last year’s meeting which took place in Bonn, Germany with 220 participants from 70 countries.
Speaking at the opening plenary, Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and Member of the Board of the UN Global Compact stated: “Next year we mark the Global Compact’s 10th anniversary. The ongoing global economic and financial crisis highlights with new urgency the importance of embedding principles, values and greater responsibility into the global marketplace. So we certainly should use this time to take stock and plan for the future.”
In her opening presentation, General Director of Universal Forum of Cultures Foundation – Barcelona Center for the Support of the Global Compact Mireia Belil said: “The extraordinary participation in terms of number of countries and guests demonstrates that this meeting will be the place where we can really learn new points of views in very different ways and, at the same time, think about how we balance being local communities and being international.”
At the closing plenary, participants called for the necessity of increased transparency and accountability, in which the importance of accelerating the integration of the Global Compact’s vision and principles throughout and beyond headquarters was strongly encouraged.
The next ALNF will be held in conjunction with the 2010 Global Compact Leaders Summit on 24-25 June 2010 in New York.
Driving company performance
The Annual Local Networks Forum (ALNF) also hosted a side event led by the Turkey Global Compact Network Representative Dr. Yilmaz Arguden on Understanding the Communication on Progress (COP) Process.
The keynote speaker for the event was Oliver Johner, Communication on Progress analyst at the UN Global Compact Office in New York. Johner remarked:"The Communication on Progress (COP) is a key measure to protect the integrity of the United Nations Global Compact. In addition, COP drives a company's performance and is a good source for inspiration and learning."
A requirement of the Global Compact membership, a COP can be viewed as a disclosure to stakeholders (e.g., investors, consumers, civil society, governments, etc.) on progress made in implementing the ten principles of the UN Global Compact, and in supporting broad UN development goals.
Business participants are required to annually submit a COP on the UN Global Compact website and to share the COP widely with their stakeholders. The COP is an important demonstration of a participant's commitment to the UN Global Compact and its principles, and as such a violation of the COP policy will result in the change in a participant's status and eventually in the delisting of the participant. The COP should be mainstreamed in the company's existing communications methods. While the format for a COP is flexible, it must contain three important elements: a statement by the CEO, description of practical actions (i.e., activities and, if applicable, policies) the company has taken to implement the Global Compact principles and lastly, a measurement of outcomes.
The session was closed by remarks on the future of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts by Serra Titiz, Founder and Managing Partner of Mikado Consulting. Titiz explained: "Today corporate responsibility is an expectation not an exception; and reporting is the outcome of a dedicated and structured corporate responsibility strategy”.
For the Practical Guide to COP please click here.
During the Local Network Side Event, the new global initiative Business Call to Action (BCtA) was announced.
The Business Call to Action (BCtA) was initiated in July 2007 when UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, called for the private sector to take a greater role in the international community’s efforts to ensure that the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) are attained by 2015.
The overall goal of the BCtA is to accelerate progress towards the MDGs by encouraging companies operating in or trading with developing countries to adapt their business models, competencies and approaches to help improve the lives of people, while leveraging their core business expertise to realize commercial success.
In introducing the initiative at the Local Network side event, UNDP Private Sector Programme Manager Hansin Dogan said “There are many Turkish companies who are already practising business in a way that creates jobs and boosts prosperity in Turkey, which would potentially inspire other businesses through the BCtA platform, to reflect on their own strategies and operations and consider how they can do the same… BCtA encourages all the businesses to take their operations further by leveraging their investments to create more jobs, offer affordable goods that address poors’ needs, and develop new technologies and innovations, which can all result from business activity and considerably improve quality of life and reduce poverty.”
For more information about the initiative please visit the BCtA website.