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Business leaders adopt declaration on best practices

Hundreds of business leaders worldwide have pledged to comply with labour, human rights, environmental and anti- corruption standards.

Their pledge was contained in a 21-point resolution entitled: “The Geneva Declaration”, which was issued at the end of the second UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva.

A copy of the declaration, which was made available on Monday July 9th, stated that top executives of corporations such as Coca-Cola, Petrobras, Fuji Xerox, China Ocean Shipping Group, Tata Steel, L M Ericsson and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria adopted the declaration.

The document, which called for urgent action, spelled out concrete actions for business, governments and UN Global Compact participants “to help enhance responsible business practices”.

They pledged to observe ten universal principles related to human rights, labour rights, the environment and the struggle against corruption.

“Poverty, income inequality, protectionism and the absence of decent work opportunities pose serious threats to world peace and markets”, it said.

“Business, as a key agent of globalisation, can be an enormous force for good”, the participants declared, adding that companies, “by committing themselves to corporate citizenship, can create and deliver value in the widest possible terms”.

It also stated that globalisation could act as an accelerator for spreading universal principles and creating a values-oriented competition for a “race to the top”.

Summing up the outcome of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told participants that their reports showed how market leadership and sustainability leadership go hand-in-hand.

“This will help us build the supportive measures needed to create more sustainable markets. And it will ultimately help improve the lives of many people around the world”, he said.

Ban therefore called on business leaders to convene board meetings to share developments from the summit and ensure that the Global Compact is fully carried out within their companies and through their suppliers and partners.

According to him, “civil society and labour leaders should remain vigilant and engaged, and continue to hold businesses accountable for their commitments”.

He called on governments to support the Global Compact as a unique public-private partnership initiative, and on the UN to integrate the Global Compact principles throughout the organisation, saying “together, through the Geneva Declaration, we have deepened our collective commitment to embedding universal values in economies and markets”.

The Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of six corporations, Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss & Co., Lackeby Water Group, Nestle South Africa, SABMiller and Suez, urged their business peers everywhere to take immediate action to address the global water crisis.

They also launched the “CEO Water Mandate”, a project designed to help companies to better manage water use in their operations and throughout their supply chains.

The summit also unveiled “The Principles for Responsible Investment”, which seeks to disseminate the tenets of corporate citizenship among capital market operators.

The participants plans to take the case for universal values and business into business schools worldwide.

Over 1 000 people participated in the summit, comprising companies, government entities, international organisations, international business organisations, international NGO’s, academia, foundations and international labour organisations.

The first Global Compact Leaders Summit took place in New York in 2004 and the next is planned for 2010. About 4 000 organisations from 116 countries, among them trade unions, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and about 3,100 businesses, have so far subscribed to the Global Compact.

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