In 2012 the Global Compact raised a lot of attention, as the face of businesses at Rio+20, and consequently in the media. The United Nations body sets sustainability principles for the world’s corporate elite. Only recently the Compact even held a workshop for journalists to be part of the Compact’s advocacy of sustainable business practices, writes Guardian’s sustainability evangelist Jo Confino. A striking call to delve more deeply into the Compact’s strategy. The UN Global Compact’s head Georg Kell, an affluent UN diplomat with a slightly German accent, formulated in a New York Times article before Rio+20 what seems to have been the common denominator of business representatives at Rio+20, “Businesses are more advanced in sustainable development issues than governments are.”
A liberal market advocate, the co-authoring Kell wrote in the same NYT article in June, “Businesses don’t need governments to tell them whether or where to treat their workers properly, invest in their communities, or contribute to the broader social fabric from which they source both their customers and their employees. They can — and should — do these things by themselves.” On the contrary, in an earlier article, Confino wrote, “Kell is anxious to act because he recognizes that the corporate sector is moving far too slowly to deal with the enormity of the social and environmental challenges heading this way.”
With recent voices such as Patrick Haack, a researcher at the University of Zurich, arguing that the corporate misuse and disregard of the Compact’s principles discredited the Global Compact as a vital instrument for private governance, Kell must have put his colleagues at the Compact under pressure in preparation for Rio+20. Mr Haack conducts research in the legitimacy of global participant organizations such as the Global Compact that rally for transnational governance solutions.