Since the Global Compact was launched over a decade ago, the business community has increasingly shown leadership and willingness in implementing good social, environmental and governance practices in their businesses. In addition to implementing these principles internally, businesses are also undertaking more outward-focused actions to increase their positive impacts on society and support broader global goals and development challenges, such as poverty, food and water security, health, education, peace, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
It is clear that successful, sustainable development requires collaboration by all stakeholders – governments, civil society, business and others. As the world’s main source of economic activity, the private sector has a central role to play, including through job creation, the adoption of inclusive business models, capacity building, infrastructure development and support for health and education programs.
“The United Nations Global Compact aims to make business part of the solution to today’s most pressing challenges.” Georg Kell, Former Executive Director, UN Global Compact
Business also increasingly understands the value-creation potential of supporting sustainable development, with significant opportunities in finding solutions to unmet social, environmental and economic needs.
What is sustainable development?
There are many definitions of sustainable development. The most quoted definition is from the 1987 report of the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future(often referred to as the Brundtland Report):
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
- the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
How can business contribute to sustainable development?
Business can contribute to sustainable development in a range of ways.
- Core business activities
- Develop inclusive business models
- Implement the Ten Princi5ples of the UN Global Compact to ensure human rights, labour standards, freedom from corruption and environmental sustainability
- Invest in developing countries for the long term, e.g. through supply chains
- Advocacy and public policy engagement
- Social investment and philanthropy
- Partnerships and collective action (see here)
The UN Global Compact’s Post-2015 Business Engagement Architecture illustrates the main building blocks necessary to enhance corporate sustainability as an effective contribution to sustainable development, creating value for both business and society.
Business also has a key role to play in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals.
GCNA Website: Sustainable Development Goals
A Global Compact for Sustainable Development [PDF]
Architects of a Better World: Building the Post-2015 Business Engagement Architecture
Food & Agriculture Business Principles
Key resources are available here