Yesterday, the United Nations Global Compact released its Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013, which reviews information received from nearly 2,000 companies around the world regarding their efforts to incorporate corporate sustainability / corporate responsibility principles into their businesses and analyzes “the state of corporate sustainability today.” (6). According to the authors, the report is also intended as a “guide” that “outlines a comprehensive set of actions that companies of all sizes can take to ingrain human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles into their corporate DNA.” (Id.). The four key findings of the report are as follows:
- Companies are moving from good intentions to significant action.
- Large companies still lead the way.
- Supply chains are a roadblock to improved performance.
- Companies see the big sustainability picture.
With respect to the first finding, the authors observe that companies are making commitments and defining goals with respect to sustainability, but are still lagging when it comes to action, as often steps to action require greater investment of time and resources. The authors note that the most progress has been made so far in the areas of labor rights and environment. As for the second finding, the report finds that smaller companies encounter barriers to sustainability progress that are “more fundamental” than those encountered by larger companies, primarily a lack of financial resources and knowledge. (16). Regarding supply chains, the report notes that, while “a majority” of companies have sustainability expectations for their supply chains, few are taking actions to track or support compliance with these expectations. The final finding represents survey feedback indicating that “companies feel they are in a position to help address urgent sustainability challenges.” (20). Climate change was cited by respondents as one of the top global sustainability challenges; it was also listed as one of the areas in which companies felt they could have the most positive impact.
The United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary corporate responsibility initiative under which member businesses commit to aligning their operations and strategies with key principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. The initiative includes a transparency and accountability element, “Communication on Progress,” that requires participating companies to issue an annual public disclosure to stakeholders on progress made in implementing the principles and in supporting broader UN development goals.