Tired of the same-old business journal? Look to the United Nations Global Compact.

The United Nations enjoys a mixed reputation in the United States. US companies would not normally look to the UN for guidance on how to do business. That is why I decided to have a look at what the UN has to say about sustainable business.

The UN Global Compact’s Guide to Corporate Sustainability is an excellent resource for understanding what it takes to run a sustainable business. It talks about operations, taking action, top-level commitment, corporate culture, and communications.

The Guide identifies five features of corporate sustainability:

  • Principled Business. This means operating with integrity. A quick online search reveals that integrity is among the most-cited corporate values. Integrity is about compliance, yes, but also about trust and accountability. Trust, accountability, and complying with the rules of the country that granted you the privilege of doing business are all necessary for business success.
  • Strengthening Society. The Guide points to poverty, conflict, an uneducated workforce, and resource scarcity, as four social issues that are also business issues. Let’s look at one – an uneducated workforce. With increased automation, there are fewer jobs that don’t require some level of formal education. And for the cutting edge of the tech industry the educational requirements are significant. A company that supports basic education, the building block for higher and more technical training, supports itself by helping to form its future workforce and leaders.
  • Leadership Commitment. The Guide identifies board ownership, policy that guides behavior, alignment with government affairs, employee training, building a sustainable supply chain, and reporting on outcomes, as requirements for sustainable business. These are the basic ingredients for every important business initiative. 
  • Reporting Progress. The Guide talks about moving from feel-good narratives to measurable sustainability impacts. A company’s successes and misses, in turn, feed the ongoing strategic planning pipeline. They can also be used by third parties like investors, lenders, and insurers, for making critical decisions that affect the company.
  • Local Action. “While the Global Compact principles are universal, companies exist and act within nations and communities” with different definitions of responsible business. There are local networks in 85 countries to help businesses navigate between the Global Compact’s principles and local requirements. 

Two of the top three reasons that companies participate in the UN Global Compact are increased trust and promoting action. These are solid business issues that companies address every day.

Turn to what you might have thought to be an unlikely source for business advice, the UN Global Compact Guide to Corporate Sustainability, and start building your own path to a sustainable business future. And if you find our blogs are helpful, interesting, or infuriating but make you think, sign up to receive them directly as soon as they come out.

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