8 February 2021
UN Global Compact Launches 3-Year Plan to Raise Expectations for Business
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The 2021-2023 strategy calls for companies to demonstrate continuous improvement in advancing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.

The Global Compact is also in the process of revising its reporting framework to help companies better align their sustainability reporting with the global sustainable development agenda.

The refreshed Communication on Progress will provide governments with data on the private sector’s contribution to the SDGs to reflect in their Voluntary National Reviews.

The UN Global Compact launched a three-year strategy to increase businesses’ contributions to the SDGs. The plan calls for companies to demonstrate continuous improvement in advancing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Ten Principles of the Global Compact.

The strategic plan covers the years 2021-2023, and cites the need for “global collective action to change the way that businesses operate” including how they affect the environment.

By the plan announced on 19 January 2021, the Global Compact will use specific, measurable targets to move participant companies faster and farther than those who are not part of the Compact, demonstrating more progress on corporate sustainability and tangible contributions to the SDGs. The plan also lays out efforts to empower the Global Compact’s local networks and launch new national and regional network with a focus on China, the US, and the global south. It will prioritize action and measurable impact on five SDGs: Goal 5 (gender equality); Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth); Goal 13 (climate action); Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions); and Goal 17 (partnership for the Goals).

Participants in the UN Global Compact include over 12,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories, making it “the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.” Participants commit to Ten Principles covering human rights, labor, environmental protection, and anti-corruption. 

Sanda Ojiambo, UN Global Compact CEO & Executive Director, said the purpose of the 2021-2023 strategy is to lead participating companies towards continuous, demonstrated improvement in their impacts and “raise expectations of how businesses will embed all Ten Principles.” She said the Principles serve as businesses’ “enabler” for helping to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who serves as Chair of the Board of the Global Compact, added that the Ten Principles guide businesses in helping collective efforts to build back stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants in the Global Compact are required to report annually using a framework called the Communication on Progress (CoP). The CoP is currently undergoing a review to enable companies to better align their sustainability reporting with the global sustainable development agenda. According to an Information Note, the new CoP is expected to include more granular questions on the SDG and Ten Principles and strengthen criteria for third-party data verification and assurance. As a result, the revised framework would:

  • Provide governments with tangible, credible data on the private sector’s contribution to the SDGs, to reflect in their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs);
  • Help UN organizations identify partners in the business community; and
  • Enable businesses to track their own progress over time, compare their performance with peers, and publicly showcase progress towards the Ten Principles and SDGs.

According to the strategic plan, the refreshed CoP will help provide an aggregate view of companies’ impacts on sustainable development. The Global Compact plans to relaunch the CoP in 2021. [UN Global Compact press release] [Publication: UN Global Compact Strategy 2021-2023] [Information Note on CoP review process]

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