3 Oct 14

The UN Global Compact: ten principles explained

UNGlobal_CompactSigning up to The United National Global Compact (UNGC) commits a company to Ten Guiding Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. It specifically commits the executive leader of an organisation and is therefore seen as an important public, top-down commitment to sustainability and better corporate citizenship.

The UN Global Compact is the world’s leading voluntary corporate citizenship initiative and is not a legally binding standard, management system, or code of conduct. As well as being a set of values based on universally accepted principles, the UNGC acts as a network for over 6,000 participating organisations from 135 countries to exchange experiences.

A company signed up to the UNGC is expected to make the UNGC and its principles an integral part of business strategy, day-to-day operations, and organisational culture; incorporate the UNGC and its principles in the decision-making processes of the highest-level governance body (e.g., Board); take actions in support of UN goals and issues, including the Millennium Development Goals and advance the UNGC and the case for responsible business practices through advocacy and active outreach to peers, partners, clients, consumers, and the public at large. In addition, signatories of the UNGC are required to produce an annual Communication on Progress (COP) to communicate to stakeholders how they have implemented the Ten Principles, which are outlined in the table below. 

The GRI is the recommended framework for reporting the organisational indicators and metrics for each principle in the COP. The annual COP must include:

  • A statement of continued support for the UNGC

  • A description of practical actions

  • A measurement of outcomes




Human rights

1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and;

2. make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses


3. Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining

4. the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour

5. the effective abolition of child labour

6.the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation


7. Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges

8. undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility

9.encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies


10. Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery

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