January 2, 2009

Helping Businesses Become Better Global Citizens

A significant change I have seen businesses make in their operation strategies over the past few years is incorporating a corporate responsibility program to become better global citizens. Starbucks (Shared Planet™), Microsoft (Corporate Citizenship), and Intel have each introduced a corporate responsibility program. (Photo is from one of my Entrepreneur and Business Development seminars at CFDE University in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.)

For example, the Starbucks™ Shared Planet™ program focuses on three goals:
  1. Ethical Sourcing: By 2015, 100 percent of Starbucks coffee will be responsibly grown and ethically traded;
  2. Environmental Stewardship: By 2015, 100 percent of the company's cups will be reusable or recyclable; and
  3. Community Involvement: By 2015, the company will contribute over one million community service hours per year.

As the business world has become more global, entrepreneurs should make global citizenship a priority. Each business or entrepreneur, whether located in the industrialized or developing world, should create and adhere to a corporate responsibility program that includes ethical standards in their business governance, operations and relationships, minimizing environmental impact, and engaging the local community through volunteering and financial support.

The United Nations created the UN Global Compact, which offers a platform for participating businesses with at least ten employees to advance their commitments to sustainability and corporate citizenship. The Global Compact has two objectives: (1) mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world and (2) catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

According to their website, "The UN Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. By doing so, business, as a primary agent driving globalization, can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere."

"Structured as a public-private initiative, the Global Compact is policy framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability principles and practices and offering participants a wide spectrum of specialized workstreams, management tools and resources, and topical programs and projects -- all designed to help advance sustainable business models and markets in order to contribute to the initiative's overarching mission of helping to build a more sustainable and inclusive global economy."

Here are the ten universally accepted principles:

The UN Global Compact's ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption enjoy universal consensus and are derived from:

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • The International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
  • The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
  • The United Nations Convention Against Corruption

The Global Compact asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment, and anti-corruption:

Human Rights
Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labour Standards
Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and

Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

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