News from the world: UN guide to corporate sustainability

17 February 2015

Last month, the UN Global Compact published the Guide to Corporate Sustainability: Shaping a Sustainable Future, highlighting five essential features of corporate sustainability.

The UN Global Compact is a UN-led initiative for sustainable businesses based around ten core principles addressing environmental, human rights, labour and corruption issues. With more than 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business participants in over 160 countries, it is helping companies, whether beginners on the sustainability journey or recognised champions, to meet their commitments to operate responsibly and support society.

The Guide to Corporate Sustainability highlights five essential features of corporate sustainability, which are useful reminders for every company’s sustainability focus. How many does your business focus on?

1)     PRINCIPLED BUSINESS
For any company, sustainability begins with operating with integrity – respecting fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles provide a universal language for corporate responsibility and a framework to guide all businesses regardless of size, complexity or location.

2)     STRENGTHENING SOCIETY
Sustainable companies look beyond their own walls and take actions to support the societies around them. Poverty, an uneducated work-force, and resource scarcity are also strategic issues for business success and viability. With business activity, investments and supply chains reaching all corners of the earth, companies know that they cannot thrive when the world around them is deteriorating. You can find out more about SBN’s work on Embedding Social Value into Business Models here.

3)      LEADERSHIP COMMITMENT
Effecting long-term change begins with a company’s leadership. Leaders must send a strong signal throughout the organi­sation that sustainability counts. Leadership also means instigating action in key areas, such as: Board ownership of the agenda; adjustments to policies and practices; training and motivating employees; pushing sustainability into the sup­ply chain; and disclosing efforts and outcomes. Leadership was identified as one of the key themes for business transformation at our 2014 conference, Project NZ.

4)      REPORTING PROGRESS
Transparency in business practice is crucial for sustainability. As a chief accountability measure, for example, Global Compact participants are required to produce an annual Communication on Progress (COP), typically included as part of their sustainability or an­nual report, providing the company’s stakeholders with an account of their efforts to operate responsibly and support society. Yet KPMG’s most recent survey of global corporate responsibility reporting shows that New Zealand is falling behind compared to other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

5)      LOCAL ACTION
View sustainability through a local lens. Companies exist and act within communities with varied expectations of what responsible business means. The types of issues a company faces and how it can actively support local and national priorities ranges greatly.

To learn more, download the Guide to Corporate Sustainability: www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/guide_to_corporate_sustainability.html.