Thursday, April 05, 2007

Global Compact: Communication on Progress

I spent the past two days in Geneva at the annual United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Communication on Progress meeting. There were about 5 of us there who were celebrating our third anniversary of attending these annual meetings, but all the other 40 or so particpants were newcomers. As I reflected back I realized that (the proverbial) we have made much progress on this front in a relatively short period of time. Let me explain.

One of the main criticisms of the Global Compact since its inception is the lack of an accountability mechanism associated with its 10 Principles. Thousands of companies have signed up and pledged to embrace these Principles of social and environmental behaviour in their daily business activities - but critics wonder if it all isn't a pile of "bluewash." In response to this the UNGC began the "Communication on Progress" (COP) requirement - companies must submit an annual report detailing how they have actually applied the Principles and what outcomes these activities have had.

This is where GRI comes in. The Sustainability Reporting Guidelines fit like a glove into the COP requirements, and the UNGC have now said that they will accept a COP based on the GRI's Guidelines. So we have been working together to make this an easy exercise for UNGC endorsing companies to undertake.

At the first COP meeting I attended there was still much discussion about what the COP policy and requirements should be. There were only about 100 companies (out of about 2500 endorsers) who had actually submitted a COP. By last year's meeting about 700 companies had submitted a COP and there was much more clarity about the value of the COP and its requirements. This year 2500 companies (out of 3000 endorsers) had submitted a COP and the UNGC had even gone so far as to de-list about 500 companies that had not submitted a COP! That's what I mean by progress.

The meeting participants shared ideas about how to help companies get their COP together, and gave the GRI and the UNGC some great advice on how to improve our guidance on how our two frameworks can be used together. Altogether a very useful meeting, and I am looking forward to year 4!

Do you think the COP mechanism helps to build the credibility and impact of the UNGC?

PS. One of the highlights of the trip was bumping into Kofi Annan himself at the airport on the way home!

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