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Actions Not Talk Needed as UN Business Network Celebrates 15 Years
   2015-06-26 13:32:22    Xinhua      Web Editor: Yangyang

Georg Kell, Executive Director of UN Global Compact, briefs journalists on the report, "Impact: Transforming Business, Changing the World" at theUnited Nationsheadquarters in New York, June 25, 2015. The report was published to coincide with the 15th anniversary celebrations of the UN Global Compact -- the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. [Photo: Xinhua/Li Muzi]

Thousands of global businesses have put sustainability high on their agenda but now need to turn talk into action, said a UN report released Thursday.

The report titled "IMPACT: Transforming Business, Changing the World" was published to coincide with the 15th anniversary celebrations of the UN Global Compact -- the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative.

The report had mixed findings about the role of businesses in sustainable development. It found that for many businesses there remains a gap between talk and action when it comes to sustainability.

The Global Compact is a UN initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. So far, more than 8,000 business participants have committed to doing business responsibly, in line with universal principles encompassing human rights, labor rights, environmental protection and anti-corruption efforts.

"Companies are becoming increasingly systematic about integrating sustainability into their operations," the report said. But it added that "implementation varies significantly between companies, progress is slow, and a large gap remains between talk and action."

As member states are forging a new development agenda for the next 15 years and a collective way forward on climate change, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "Our gathering today takes place in a potentially transformative year." Ban was convinced that businesses will be "indispensable" in the period ahead.

Meanwhile, the secretary-general also emphasized the positive contributions that businesses make. "We are here together in the belief that business can and must be a force for good," Ban said.

"The Global Compact has been instrumental not just in reshaping global business practices, but in refreshing the United Nations -- opening its doors to a business community that for too long saw little common ground or shared interest," Ban said.

"Together, let us move ahead with compassion and resolve to leave no one behind and build a future of dignity for all."

Composed of 193 member states, the United Nations will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year. Sustainable development is high on the world organization's agenda and the UN recognizes that to achieve sustainable development it must form partnerships with businesses and civil society as well as governments.

Also speaking at the event, Henrik Madsen, CEO of DNV GL, the company that produced the report, said the global business community needed to be doing more to achieve sustainability.

"We are doing what we can but we are not yet doing what we must, " Madsen said. "Every day that business as usual continues we delay the opportunity that we know awaits us in this new climate economy."

Fu Chengyu, chairman of the Global Compact Partnership China, also spoke at the Global Compact event.

"The Global Compact has not only successfully opened new avenues of global governance and promoted sustainable social and economic development but also created remarkable positive energy by facilitating governments, business and the public to unite and work together," Fu said.

A total of 182 Chinese businesses are participants in the Global Compact.

While the Global Compact had achieved much in its short history, Madsen said, there is still a long way to go.

"We don't know if we will reach a sustainable and inclusive economy which is the mission of the Global Compact," Madsen said. "I hope we will, but the jury is still out."

"What we can say for sure is that the Global Compact has really helped to make the change, and I'm sure will continue to help that change," Madsen noted.

Also on Thursday, Ban announced that the Executive Director of UN Global Compact Georg Kell will retire later in the year and will be replaced by Danish businesswoman Lise Kingo from September 2015.

Ban acknowledged Kell's exemplary leadership in the creation and management of the United Nations Global Compact since its launch in 2000, and said Kingo would bring "a wealth of experience and passion to the Global Compact, coupled with extensive knowledge and understanding of strategic leadership and implementation of corporate sustainability."

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