The Corporate Social Responsibility model developed By the United Nations -The Global Compact

MHCi Monthly Feature September 2010

CSR, Development (MDGs) and the UN Global Compact

Background Paper for the conference organized by UNITAR and the Jewellery Industry in the UN Pavilion (Shanghai Exposition, China, Sept 21-23, 2010)

By Michael Hopkins[1] September, 2010

Governments acknowledged the UN Global Compact as a means not only to motivate business to adopt a responsible approach to management, but also to engage business in finding constructive, inclusive and innovative solutions to global challenges.

[Global Compact Leader’s Summit, 23-25 June, New York, 2010][2]

Throughout our study, we could not find, at any time, any definition of the Global Compact on what the Corporate Social Responsibility would mean. In the documents searched, websites or articles and speeches in the UN or in the articles written by scholars that have studied the Global Compact, the UN vision of CSR has not been defined nor even tried. We see at this point, a failure, an interest or an opportunity for Global Compact/ UN and a possibility of analysis and exploration for scholars.


1. Introduction

The UN Global Compact (UNGC) is a path breaking movement inside the United Nations to encourage the private sector, across the world, to observe ten principles of good behaviour. Its belief is that:

‘The UNGC 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, labor, 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. The UNGC has two objectives:

1) Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world;

2) Catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).’

These are ambitious and laudatory objectives.The problem, of course, is that the talented people running the UN Global Compact are hampered by their mandate.Alert readers will note that 70% of the principles are devoted to labour and environmental issues.They may also wonder why wider principles were not included and also, why no mention of the UN MDGs?The answer is straightforward.But first an anecdote.I had a boss once, at the ILO in Geneva, an intelligent economist who spent a large proportion of his time in the beginning of the 1980s in UN HQ in New York with one sole objective.To get the word ‘employment’ into as many UN declarations as possible.Once the objective was achieved, the UN would then have a mandate to support employment objectives which, indeed, it did and (of course) to ensure that the ILO would receive any funds that may be allocated.

Clearly, when the principles of the UNGC were being developed through a number of struggles within the UN bureaucracy, compromises were struck so that something could be put together for the forthcoming appearance of the then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos in the year 2000.But, the problem with any statement created in this way is that, should there be success as indeed the UNGC has achieved to a certain extent, its proponents are stuck with the original declaration and its limited analytical framework.Thus even though the UNGC claims ‘to motivate business to adopt a responsible approach to management’ {see quote above] it is manifestly unable to deliver.The UNGC might lead business down the CSR path as a first step but it may confuse the whole process and, in turn, will have, a hard job to motivate business to adopt management responsibility.This is discussed in more detail in in the .pdf file CSR, Development (MDGs)and UN Global Compact.


[1] Thanks to Ivor Hopkins (MHCi), Hanifa Mezoui (UNITAR) and Francois Loriot (AIFOMD) for comments on an earlier draft

[2] Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010, held on 23-25 June in New York, see, accessed Aug 22 2010

[3] Souza, Nadja V. de. “The Corporate Social Responsibility Model Developed By the United Nations – The Global Compact” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA – ABRI JOINT INTERNATIONAL MEETING, Pontifical Catholic University, Rio de Janeiro Campus (PUC-Rio), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, referenced and downloadable from accessed Sept 1st 2010