Over the last several years, the United Nations has become a trailblazer in promoting corporate responsibility. “In the 11 years since its launch, the United Nations Global Compact has been at the forefront of the UN’s effort to make the private sector a critical actor in advancing sustainability,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the 2011 edition of the Global Compact International Yearbook. Edited by the German publishing house macondo, the new Yearbook offers insights on political as well as sustainability issues.
Exemplary entrepreneurial commitments can foster and create incentives for other companies. To guide companies along this road, they need a blueprint for corporate sustainability. This is the focal topic of the new Global Compact International Yearbook. Guidelines for consumer standards and labels, an analysis of the new ISO 26000 SR Standard, and a debate about the historic changes in the Arab world are other major topics explored. Among this year’s prominent authors are Lord Michael Hastings, NGO activist Sasha Courville, and the former Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze.
Agenda Blueprint The future of the Accountability Web Circling back to where we started, the outcome of the Greenpeace-Nestlé controversy exemplifies the potential of the Accountability Web to scale up positive change. In response to the Greenpeace campaign, Nestlé strengthened its palm oil sourcing policy to include best practices such as free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous and local communities. Indeed, FPIC (which the International Finance Corporation recently institutionalized in its updated Sustainability Framework, and Talisman commissioned a report on FPIC by Foley Hoag LLP endorsed by the World Resources Institute) strengthens the web of accountability between stakeholders and companies. Joining the Dots How UNGC and GRI Are Working Together for a Sustainable Future By Teresa Fogelberg What does the future hold? In our view, this dynamic negotiation for social license to operate will weave its way into the digital realm, as previously marginalized communities gain increasing interconnectivity – for example through cell phones and other handheld devices that enable wider participation and representation. In the end, the Accountability Web illustrates the power of interactive technologies to support the dialogic nature of mutual accountability, spinning a virtuous cycle spiraling toward a more just and sustainable world. The trend toward transparency on corporate non-financial performance is gaining momentum and there are a number of frameworks, systems, and principles that help companies disclose information. A key requirement for making sustainability disclosure standard practice for companies and other organizations worldwide is harmonization between these guidance sources. In line with this, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the UN GlobalCompact (UNGC) have been working together to align advice and help organizations through the reporting process. GRI provides a comprehensive framework for producing sustainability reports. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines enable all organizations worldwide to assess their sustainability performance and disclose the results in a similar way to financial reporting. GRI’s vision is a sustainable global economy where companies’ disclosure of their sustainability performance is standard practice. As both UNGC and GRI are based on the concept of encouraging continuous improvement, there is significant alignment in approaches to quality and scope of sustainability reporting. In 2007, the two organizations published a linkage document to help companies navigate the two systems and their crossovers. The publication “Making the Connection: The GRI Guidelines and the UNGC Communication on Progress” includes a table outlining crossovers between UNGC’s Communication on Progress and GRI’s G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. UNGC and GRI signed an agreement in May 2010 to align their work in advancing corporate responsibility and transparency. As part of this agreement, GRI is working to develop guidance regarding the GlobalCompact’s Ten Principles and is striving to align its next iteration of its Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, “G4,” with UNGC issue areas. UNGC will adopt the GRI Guidelines as the recommended reporting framework for the UN GlobalCompact signatories. Ernst Ligteringen, GRI’s Chief Executive, explained the importance of the partnership when it was announced: “The agreed collaboration, combining the expertise and efforts of GRI and the UN GlobalCompact, will allow us to significantly extend our outreach and support an increasing number of companies and stakeholders around the world which seek to improve their sustainability performance.” GRI is working toward its mission to make sustainability reporting standard practice, and as such is now developing the next generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, G4. The Guidelines need to be fit for purpose, and should align with other frameworks, initiatives, and principles, including those of the UNGC’s. are now 60 training partners in more than 40 countries – that have been approved by GRI to train people in sustainability reporting. There are also UNGC Local Networks in many countries. Many companies in OECD and developing countries are both signatories to the GlobalCompact as well as GRI reporters. Because of this, it makes sense for these local representatives of GRI and UNGC to work together: Both organizations will partner at the country level. Seven countries have been selected in which GRI and UNGC will join forces and develop activities that are relevant to the local agenda. The ongoing partnership between GRI and UNGC will ensure that harmonization is successful, both globally and locally, thereby helping to make disclosure of environmental, social, and governance factors a mainstream practice. Bill Baue is Senior Research Fellow with AccountAbility. Dr. Marcy Murninghan is co-founder of the The Murninghan Post. In the publication, Georg Kell, Executive Director United Nations GlobalCompact, notes: “Companies participating in both initiatives have long stressed the understanding that the GRI is a practical expression of the GlobalCompact.” GRI now has local representation, called Focal Points, in five countries – Australia, Brazil, China, India, and the United States – to increase the number and quality of reports and to provide local input into global developments. GRI works with independent Certified Training Partners worldwide – there Teresa Fogelberg is Deputy Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative. 22 GlobalCompactInternationalYearbook2011GlobalCompactInternationalYearbook2011 23