The, two-day Global Compact Leaders Summit entitled, “Facing realities: getting down to business”, was opened yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He announced that the UN has successfully created an international movement of companies dedicated to advancing responsible business practices, but added that more work needs to be done.

Addressing an international audience composed of 1 000 chief executive officers, government ministers, and heads of civil society and labour organizations, the UN Secretary-General said that over 4 000 companies and stakeholders in 116 countries have committed to the Global Compact’s 10 principles related to human rights, working conditions, the environment and anti-corruption

A range of new initiatives and projects on climate change, education and water are being announced during the Summit – the largest event the UN has ever convened on corporate citizenship.

“Power cannot be separated from responsibility. For markets to expand in a sustainable way, we must provide those currently excluded with better and more opportunities to improve their livelihoods”, stated Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden spoke yesterday at one of the Summit's three "selected initiatives" sessions about ISO’s collaboration with the UN Global Compact on the future ISO 26000 standard, now under development, which will provide organizations in both public and private sectors with guidance on social responsibility.

ISO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Global Compact Office (UNGCO) in 2006 to encourage closer cooperation between the two organizations on the development, promotion and support of ISO 26000, which will be consistent with the Global Compact’s 10 universal principles.

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden (right) in conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

Alan Bryden commented at the Summit session: “This UNGCO-ISO collaboration is another exemplary illustration of ISO’s cooperation with the UN system and of the bridge that ISO's consensus-based standards can provide between public policies and societal needs and their actual implementation by the economic actors, based on the promotion of good practices and global relevance."

He added: "A partnership has also been established with the International Labour Organization to ensure consistency with established international labour standards and instruments. Cooperation is also secured with other key international organizations such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development."

The ISO Secretary-General elaborated, “Social responsibility came on the ISO agenda because of the need to harmonize terminology and principles, as well as the numerous guidance documents and initiatives developed on this topical subject.”

The core issues to be included in the future ISO 26000 were agreed at the meeting of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility in Sydney earlier this year, and grouped in the following four clusters of:

  • environment,
  • human rights and labour practices,
  • organizational governance and fair operating practices, and
  • consumer issues and community involvement/society development

At the UNGC Summit session yesterday, Mr. Bryden explained how many of the 16 500 ISO standards contribute to the three components of sustainable development:

  • economic growth by facilitating trade, interoperability and the dissemination of good business practices and new technologies;
  • environmental integrity by promoting good environmental management and labelling or supporting the accounting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions in the context of emission trading, as well as by providing standards on air, water or soil quality, and on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources; and
  • societal equity, with standards related to consumer protection and information, safety at the workplace, health technologies and services and, more recently, social responsibility.

Mr. Bryden called the business community to action on social responsibility, declaring: “I wish to encourage the business community to further contribute and seize the advantage of eventually having a voluntary International Standard on social responsibility which will facilitate the sharing and promotion of best practices and their communication towards stakeholders and society at large.”

Click here for the ISO Secretary-General's full speech at the UN Summit session.

Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact brings business together with UN agencies, labor, civil society and governments to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.