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UN Global Compact

In an address to the World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999, United Nation Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged business leaders to join an international initiative – the Global Compact – that would bring companies together with UN agencies, labour and civil society to support universal environmental and social principles.

The Global Compact’s operational phase was launched at UN Headquarters in New York on 26 July 2000. Today, over 2,500 companies from all regions of the world, including international labour and civil society organisations, are engaged in the Global Compact, working to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. The Global Compact is a direct initiative of the Secretary-General.

Through the power of collective action, the Global Compact seeks to promote responsible corporate citizenship so that business can be part of the solution to the challenges of globalization. In this way, the private sector – in partnership with other social actors – can help realize the Secretary-General’s vision: a more sustainable and inclusive global economy.

The Global Compact is a purely voluntary initiative with two objectives:

  • Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world.
  • Catalyse actions in support of UN goals.

To achieve these objectives, the Global Compact offers facilitation and engagement through several mechanisms: Policy Dialogues, Learning, Country/Regional Networks, and Projects.

The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument – it does not “police”, enforce or measure the behavior or actions of companies. Rather, the Global Compact relies on public accountability, transparency and the enlightened self-interest of companies, labour and civil society to initiate and share substantive action in pursuing the principles upon which the Global Compact is based.

The Global Compact is a network. At its core are the Global Compact Office and six UN agencies: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; the United Nations Environment Programme; the International Labour Organisation; the United Nations Development Programme; the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation; and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The Global Compact involves all the relevant social actors:

  • governments, who defined the principles on which the initiative is based; companies, whose actions it seeks to influence;
  • labour, in whose hands the concrete process of global production takes place;
  • civil society organisations, representing the wider community of stakeholders;
  • and The United Nations, the world's only truly global political forum, as an authoritative convener and facilitator.

The 10 principles of GC

The Global Compact's ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption enjoy universal consensus and are derived from:

The Global Compact asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment, and anti-corruption:

Human Rights

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  • Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.  

Labour Standards

  • 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 labour;
  • Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
  • 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; and
  • 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. 

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