The United Nations has been at the forefront of helping businesses and investors to understand the value of sustainability as well as providing valuable research and resources. Through agencies like the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) the United Nations has been a leading global force advancing the role of sustainability.
The UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals are set to replace Millennial Development Goals which are set to expire this year. The UN also organizes the annual climate meeting known as the Conference of the Parties (COP).
Here is a brief review of some of the UN’s outstanding work in the promotion of sustainability for businesses and investors.
Twenty-three years ago the UN created Agenda 21, a non-binding UN resolution that suggests ways for governments and NGOs to advance sustainable development. It is a product of the 1992 Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
UNEP Report on the Green Economy
In 2011 the United Nations issued a blueprint for green investment called Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication. This report called investors to rethink their reliance on market forces which have resulted in the misallocation of capital. They suggest that investors need to inculcate an awareness of environmental factors into their investment practices. This document cited UNEP which recommends that 2 percent of global gross domestic product (about $1.3 trillion) be funneled towards low-carbon, resource-efficent investments. The UNEP report specifically calls fro more green investment in agriculture, public transportation, and the fisheries.
UNDP Report on the Green Economy
The UNDP have issued a number of reports including a 2012 document titled. “The Green Economy in Action” This report was an amalgamation of articles and excerpts that illustrate green economy and sustainable development efforts.
UN Global Compact
Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact has had a major impact on world business. The UN Global Compact is a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments
to implement universal sustainability principles and to take steps to
support UN goals. By committing to sustainability, the Global Compact
sees business as a force for good. Their efforts are premised on the
belief that business can take shared responsibility for achieving a
In 2012 the UN system and the Global Compact hosted the Rio +20 Forum
which was the most important corporate sustainability event of the
year. The event was subtitled “Innovation & Collaboration for
the Future We Want.” The week long forum consisted of dozens of highly
focused workshops and thematic sessions linked to the Rio+20 agenda.
DNV GL has prepared an independent report on behalf of the UN Global Compact called “Impact – Transforming Business Changing the World” Their study concludes that sustainability is now firmly on the global business agenda.
On June 25th 2015 The United Nations Global Compact and DNV GL launched a publication called NEXT Sustainable Business. The report is a reflection of what’s next for sustainable
business as seen through the eyes of forward-thinking, progressive and
inspiring people, including among others Ban Ki-moon, Georg Kell, Sir
Mark Moody-Stuart, Paul Polman, Yolanda Kakabadse and Kofi Annan.
To achieve their sustainability goals they call on companies to integrate 10 Principles into corporate values, strategies, policies and procedures. The goal is to establish a culture of integrity that supports the three tenants of sustainability (people, planet and profit).
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 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.
At the UN Global Compact, we believe it’s possible to create a sustainable and inclusive global economy that delivers lasting benefits to people, communities and markets. That’s our vision.