United Nations Global Compact

United Nations Global Compact

Anant Jain

In this article, Anant JAIN (ESSEC Business School, Grande Ecole – Master in Management, 2019-2022) talks about the United Nations Global Compact.


The United Nations (UN) Global Compact is a worldwide initiative to assist and support companies devoted to responsible business practices in human rights, environment, labor, and corruption. This UN-led initiative supports activities that contribute to sustainable development goals to build a better world.

The UN Global Compact is formulated on Ten Principles that should define a company’s core value system and its approach to conducting business. Within the compact (an agreement between the UN and any company becoming a member), member companies are expected to engage in specific business practices that help people and the planet while seeking profitability with integrity. Beyond the agreement, the UN assist and support member companies in different ways:

  • Networking opportunities with other UN Global Compact participants from over 160 countries
  • Local network support by the UN Global Compact’s country specific teams in over 85 countries
  • Access for partnership with a range of stakeholders
  • Access to tools, resources, and training along with the best practical guidance by the UN Global Compact.

The Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact

The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, as stated on its website, are mentioned below:

Human rights

Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.

Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.


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 labor.

Principle 5: The effective abolition of child labor.

Principle 6: The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.


Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.

Principle 8: Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.

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.

Companies that join the UN Global Compact initiative are expected to integrate the ten principles of the UN Global Compact into their corporate strategies, organizational culture, and daily logistics. The companies are also expected to promote the principles publicly. Any company may join the UN Global Compact and commit to uphold the principles, but it is not legally binding and purely voluntary.

Benefits for companies to join the UN Global Compact

Companies may choose to join the UN Global Compact because of the significance of corporate codes of conduct for growing and sustaining healthy relationships with clients, employees, and other stakeholders. It is also essential to avoid governing and judicial problems.

Moreover, companies that pledge to sustainability might gain the upper hand in untapped markets, attract and retain business partners, develop new products and services in a lower-risk environment, and boost employee satisfaction and efficiency.

UN Global Compact Strategy 2021-2023

The United Nations Global Compact is positioned to assist companies to align with their sustainable practices while recuperating from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the aid of all 193 participant countries of the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Global Compact continues to be the exclusive global regulating authority and the reference point for action and leadership within a developing global corporate sustainability transition. Its latest strategy intends to leverage this position and upgrade the expected outcomes of businesses to incorporate the principles laid down by UN Global Compact.

The UN Global Compact provides a blueprint to companies. The COVID-19 global pandemic and ongoing climate crisis already hindered the progress, the world attained by embracing the global goals in 2015. Therefore, this strategy aims to regain that lost grip and advance much further by persuading global businesses to scale up their contributions.

The 2021–2023 UN Global Compact Strategy is formulated around five chief elements. Each element follows a fixed set of preferences, engagement with specific personnel, programs to be emphasized, and operations methodology. The impact for this mission will be derived through two main media, which are as follows:

  • Accountable companies: Businesses dedicated to fastening their own individual company’s progress to implement and sustain the Ten Principles, and to contribute to the Global Goals.
  • Enabling ecosystems: Global and local communities and networks that inspire, support and aid combined effort to attain the goal.

The new global strategy for 2021–2023 covers five essential transformations to increase the actions and the scale of these actions of businesses. The five primary shifts are mentioned below:

1) Making Companies Accountable

One of the main elements of the new strategy is to fasten the pace and the growth rate of the participating companies’ corporate sustainability and responsible practices while keeping the companies accountable. The UN Global Compact will use explicit, measurable targets within an intensified reporting framework to hold the participating companies accountable.

2) A Harmonious Growth of Local and Regional Networks

The UN Global Compact will empower the Global Compact Local Networks and the base of all their work. They will also build more dynamic national ecosystems for business sustainability. This step should help start new national and regional Global Compact networks. The focus areas will be the Global South, the United States, and China.

3) Mapping Impact in Priority Areas

UN Global Compact programs will concentrate on the Ten Principles to direct action on five priority Global Goals. These programs will be co-created with the Local Networks that will finally deliver these programs. All programs will be adapted to country-specific requirements. The priority areas are as follows:

  • Gender Equality (SDG 5): to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8): to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Climate Action (SDG 13): to take urgent actions to combat climate changes and its impacts.
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16): to promote peaceful and inclusive socities for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  • Partnerships (SDG 17): to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

4) Harnessing the Combined Action of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMEs)

The UN Global Compact includes most of the world’s businesses and employers. They will leverage this to establish targeted and cross-cutting SME programs that will utilize digital tools and value chains to improve the scale.

5) More active engagement with the United Nations and its partners

The UN Global Compact will increase their collaboration at the global and nation level with United Nations agencies and UN country-specific teams. The main agenda for this is to increase the outreach to promote responsible business practices around the world.

Useful resources

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About the author

The article was written in October 2021 by Anant JAIN (ESSEC Business School, Grande Ecole – Master in Management, 2019-2022).

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