UN Global Compact defines Corporate sustainability as a company’s delivery of long-term value in financial, social, environmental and ethical terms. It is about 10 years since it has brought out the 10 Principles covering four issue areas of the UN Global Compact – Human Rights, Labour, Environment, Anti-Corruption – but it endeavors to go beyond these to encompass additional sustainability priorities such as – “Broader UN Goals and Issues” referring to an array of global issues – based on the most acute or chronic global challenges – including Peace & Security; the Millennium Development Goals; Human Rights; Children’s Rights; Gender Equality; Health; Education; Humanitarian Assistance; Migration; Food Security; Sustainable Ecosystems and Biodiversity; Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation; Water Security and Sanitation; Employment and Decent Working Conditions; and Anti-Corruption.i
Recently Aman Singh Das wrote at the Vault’s CSR blog http://bit.ly/hJjYxE Quote: “At a recent breakfast hosted by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and NYSE Euronext, the Conference Board’s David Vidal asked an insightful question: What are the top three reasons for your company’s reluctance to embrace sustainability—and to adopt sustainability reporting? The responses that came from an audience representing the glitterati of the corporate social responsibility world might surprise. What these responses point to, however, is the continued sense of reluctance across senior leadership toward combining the social and environmental with corporate.‘ The 11 challenges indicated were:
- Lack of Global Standards
- Lack of comparative credibility
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of the known UNQUOTE
The point of contention to note: “is the continued sense of reluctance across senior leadership toward combining the social and environmental with corporate.” Could it be due to one of the 11 challenges – Causality  or is it due to the difficulty of comprehending Ethical & Fiscal Responsibility? This needs a resolution – how to measure or rather measure up to the challenges?
Corporate Sustainability Leadership is of recent origin an off-shoot of UN Global Compact. The 10 Principles of UNGC have been in vogue for over a decade, and had they been brought under the grip of effective controls then the glitterati would not have doubted  the successful implementation of the demands of Sustainability. The doubts need to be cleared which could be done if the 10 Principles rest on a solid foundation.
Foundation is the essence of the fundamentals in the field of knowledge. UNCAC emerged in the year 2003 but had put in a document comprehensive, well structured, directed towards the Member States who are signatories to start with enabling ratification of the Treaty. UNCAC covers one single aspect of UNGC which is Principle 10 Anti-corruption. Corporate within the ambit of the Member States of UNCAC should have no difficulty in adopting Article 12 of UNCAC for Sustainability. At the same time UNCAC is a guide to create a document specific to Principles 1 to 9 of UNGC in a similar manner. Together UNGC 10 Principles would perforce bring about an international cooperation as stated in Chapter IV of UNCAC that provides credible comparability  leading towards a consensus of Global Standards . Without Global Standards Benchmarking  will never be feasible. Without benchmarking UNGC would ever remain a document of good intentions.
Corporate has only fiscal responsibility but functions within the framework of ethical responsibility. Currently the tendency to create jargons without defining them results in lack of Global standards. Corporate Governance, Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and now Corporate Sustainability leadership are all terms that need to be brought under the Global Standards well defined affording a meaningful interpretation and therefore measuring it uniformly globally. When social and environmental aspects are brought under fiscal responsibility Corporate Resources  are stretched without the knowledge of extent of commitment for the future. Davos meet on UNGC and the UNGC Blueprint expecting Corporate “to undertake actions in support of broader UN goals and issues”, are extrapolation of symptoms of fear  and the uncertainty  as to how governments would pass legislation on these social and environmental problems  on Corporate.
UNGC has a structural flaw in its implementation program which is directed towards Corporate, unlike UNCAC that has the support of the Member States. UN Global Compact by its perspective encompasses the global operations that would be impeded by the lack of governmental initiatives. The intentions of UNGC are indeed laudable but Corporate has a fiscal responsibility of balancing their costs vis-a-vis the operational efficiency that need the approval of the stakeholders. These costs have necessarily be brought into focus the return on investment criteria  perforce.
GRI has with good intentions absorbed divergent aspects of sustainability factors for different industries. That is the flaw of the structure of Corporate Sustainability Leadership, “to undertake actions in support of broader UN goals and issues”. It is not the 8600 companies around 136 countries who take up these issues of Environmental and Social Responsibility but every organization globally need to be measured and certified. The 10 Principles of UNGC are the common tenets that each company has to pass to become sustainable in the social environment. It is not merely a comparative credibility between one and another but the capability of disparate elements of industries across converging into a single accountability index within the national grid of economy.
Conclusion: These 11 Challenges need to be reinvigorated for a sustainable interest in the field of social and environmental responsibility.
Based on the above factors I have commenced writing my book on Measuring Corporate Sustainability Leadership by IBCM. Your comments and contribution are welcome and it will be duly noted in the book. Please also see in this site my blogs: 1. Angel’s Advocate Measuring National Grid of Governance http://wp.me/p18MVb-6h and 2. My comments on CSR 2.0 Competitive Advantage for the Future, by Alberto Andreu Pinillos http://wp.me/p18MVb-85, that would give insight into the approach the proposed book would undertake.
Jayaraman Rajah Iyer