News & Views

The UN Global Compact’s impact on the global business and human rights agenda

 Over the past fifteen years, the economic case and moral imperative for companies to act responsibly, and respect and protect human rights, has gained significant traction. More companies than ever before now have a pro-active approach to human rights. An independent study – featured in the Guardian – has found the UN Global Compact has played a central role in catalysing business engagement on human rights.

In the report Transforming Business, Changing the World, DNV GL looked at how the UN Global Compact has influenced the evolving relationship between business and society since its launch in 2000.

From the report findings – and as featured by the Guardian – the UN Global Compact’s key impacts on the global business and human rights agenda have included:

  1. Raising awareness of the corporate responsibility to respect and protect human rights. The UN Global Compact played an early role in putting human rights on the business agenda, which has made significant in-roads in the business community, and paved the way for the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in 2011.
  2. Advancing the rights of specific stakeholder groups through engagement platforms. These include the UN Global Compact established the Women’s Empowerment Principles, in collaboration with UN Women, and the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in partnership with UNICEF and Save the Children. The UN Global Compact also developed the Business Reference Guide to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  3. Embedding business and human rights in the local context through the UN Global Compact’s local networks. The UN Global Compact’s local networks help business understand and implement the initiative’s principles, and actively support local priorities with regard to business and human rights.
  4. Providing a global multi-stakeholder platform to facilitate collaboration and learning. The UN Global Compact has significant convening power, providing it with a unique ability to engage business, government, UN, civil society and academia around the human rights agenda. It also provides practical collaborative tools such as the Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum.
  5. Increasing transparency and corporate disclosure on human rights. UN Global Compact signatory companies are required to submit an annual report each year on their progress in implementing the initiative’s principles. This has substantially increased the amount of publicly-available corporate information on human rights performance.

The UN Global Compact’s contribution to the global business and human rights agenda has already been significant, but there is still a way to go to ensure a more equal and socially responsible global business community.

In Australia, the Global Compact Network Australia will continue to lead the national dialogue on business and human rights and support Australian businesses to understand and implement respect for human rights through our Human Right Leadership Group activities.