The UN Global Compact Network UK Annual Summit acts as the dynamic hub where business, government, and civil society leaders converge to explore solutions for the most pressing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) challenges. This year’s summit held from October 16th to 17th, 2023, was no exception. The summit dissected the intricacies of ethical and sustainable practices and highlighted best practices and solutions for business leaders to try.
Amidst the diverse topics covered, the spotlight illuminated the vital intersection of data and processes to be able to implement The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. These principles are a front-facing commitment that gives businesses a framework to put into place to take action on responsible business practices around human rights, labour standards, environmental responsibility, and anti-corruption measures.
Respecting human Rights: A business essential
Respect for human rights is more than just the right thing to do. When they’re ignored, it can be a costly oversight for your business. It runs the risk of putting your social licence to operate at risk.
Not to mention the potential negative backlash, consumer boycotts, exposure to legal liability and adverse government action, adverse action by investors and business partners, and reduced productivity and morale of employees. So, it is a critical balance to get right.
A crucial takeaway from the summit was that irrespective of data quality and processes, a company’s culture plays a pivotal role in translating information into impactful decisions. The essence lies beyond empty statements such as “We protect human rights”. Instead, it’s essential to demonstrate real, tangible actions demonstrating your commitment to, and action on, meeting fundamental human rights, labour, environmental, and anti-corruption responsibilities.
To help you elevate your business practice in line with the UNGC standards, we wanted to bring you actionable steps you can take surrounding the Ten Principles.
Human Rights principles
Embedding human rights considerations throughout operations is crucial. To counter complicity in abuses, introduce thorough human rights impact assessments, engage stakeholders, and implement robust due diligence processes. Collaborate with local communities and NGOs for insights and a comprehensive understanding of needs. Take specific actions like conducting Human Rights Impact Assessments, upholding international standards, and adopting a clear Human Rights Policy. Continuous assessment, monitoring, and proactive remediation processes avoid complicity and contribute to a just and sustainable world.
Proactive commitment to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and non-discrimination is paramount. Engage openly with workers, establish effective grievance mechanisms, and ensure transparency in supply chain practices. Respect workers’ right to join trade unions freely, foster a cooperative work environment, and recognise the significance of collective bargaining. Actively participate in the UN Global Compact to showcase commitment to overarching labour principles and drive positive changes. Uphold a clear policy against forced labour, stay aware of industries prone to forced labour, and actively participate in industry-wide initiatives to eradicate child labour and discrimination.
Integrating sustainability into core strategies involves clear emission reduction targets and circular economy practices. Embracing a precautionary approach requires evaluating risks systematically, prioritising prevention, and engaging in research for environmentally friendly products. Transparent communication, stakeholder engagement, and collaboration with industry partners demonstrate a dedication to environmental stewardship. Utilise key management systems for transparency and continuous improvement, gaining a competitive edge and positioning as a responsible steward of the environment.
Championing integrity and ethical conduct is not just a commitment; it’s a crucial stance for businesses. Recognising the nuances and consequences of corruption—from legal implications to reputational damage—is the first line of defence.
Mitigate risks by implementing anti-corruption policies, extending their reach, and transparently reporting efforts. Collaboration is the secret weapon; join forces with industry peers, government bodies, and NGOs to foster a transparent and accountable business environment. Use resources like the B20 Collective Action Hub and sign the “Anti-corruption Call to Action” to build a resilient business foundation founded on ethical principles.
You become a true champion of responsible corporate citizenship by actively incorporating human rights considerations, fostering fair labour practices, embracing environmental sustainability, and combating corruption. It’s not just about ticking boxes but creating a legacy of ethical, sustainable, and socially responsible business practices for the benefit of society.
About Catherine Manning, Social Value Lead
Catherine Manning is a social value impact consultant with a wealth of experience delivering projects, programs, training and events across various sectors. Her passion lies in using these skills to make a positive impact on society. Previously, Catherine led the engagement and technical teams at Social Value UK. Catherine holds an International Development master’s degree and has been recognised as a WISE100 Star of the Future finalist in 2022. She holds a Level 1 Social Value Associate Practitioner certification and as the Social Value Lead at Impact Reporting, brings her expertise in social value, impact management, procurement, project management, events, research and problem-solving to help businesses make a difference in the world.