The leader of the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative says the pandemic has sparked record participation among its members. She shares her plans to build upon that momentum while combating “greenwashing.”
In 2000, then-Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the United Nations Global Compact to help give the global marketplace, in his words, “a more human face.” That year the Global Compact had 44 participating companies.
Today, it is fulfilling Annan’s vision in partnership with more than 12,000 business and 3,000 non-business signatories from across 165 countries. Companies who sign up are committing to The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, which encompass everything from human and labor rights to environmental protection.
Sanda Ojiambo, the Global Compact’s CEO and Executive Director, calls these principles “the DNA for how companies can help the world achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, as well as the objectives of the Paris Agreement on
In addition to working with companies directly to implement those principles into their strategies, the Global Compact has also helped launch a number of influential campaigns and networks. In 2006 it launched the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, which has seen investors managing more than a combined $100 trillion pledge to incorporate ESG factors into their investment decision making. More recently, the Global Compact helped launch the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” campaign, which has mobilized companies with a combined market capitalization of $13 trillion to set science-based targets across their value chains.
Ojiambo is the first African to lead the Global Compact and the second woman to do so. Her predecessor, Danish businesswoman Lise Kingo, had previously been a senior executive at Novo Nordisk. Before joining the Global Compact in June of 2020, Ojiambo had been Head of Sustainable Business and Social Impact at Safaricom, Kenya’s largest telecoms provider.
She spoke with Brunswick about her plans to broaden the Global Compact’s reach in the Global South and also ensure that its signatories are living up to their commitments: “If a company does not demonstrate significant progress, or goes against the principles of the Global Compact,” she says, “it will not remain part of the UN Global Compact.”