The Global Compact and the United Nations Environment Programme

The Rio Declaration, the key outcome of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), outlines a set of principles with the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through respecting the interest of people and development while protecting the integrity of the global environment. Within this context, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) works to provide leadership and encourage partnerships in caring for the environment. Its work is based on the tenets of precaution, prevention, sound management, responsibility, accountability and equity. UNEP advocates the creation and implementation of innovative environmental policies at the international level while encouraging the sound environmental management of business activities.

UNEP works closely with the private sector to ensure that it is fully involved in the preparation and implementation of international conventions such as the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent and others. UNEP also works with business to develop a life-cycle approach to their activities, addressing in a comprehensive manner all issues related to resource extraction and use, production processes, product use and disposal.

The three Rio principles that are the foundation of the Global Compact are therefore at heart of UNEP's activities:

  1. using a precautionary approach to decision making;
  2. managing business in an environmentally responsible manner; and
  3. developing and implementing environmentally sound technologies.  

They guide the work of UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE), which develops voluntary initiatives and partnerships with business leaders designed to ensure their policies, strategies, practices and technologies:

  • are cleaner and safer;
  • make efficient use of natural resources;
  • ensure environmentally sound management of chemicals;
  • incorporate environmental costs; and
  • reduce pollution and risks for human and environment.

UNEP DTIE's work is structured around six key actions that contribute to the Global Compact:

  1. identify and define key emerging environmental issues and trends in various industries worldwide;
  2. Build consensus on policy responses, in particular develop global and sectoral voluntary initiatives and codes such as the International Declaration on Cleaner Production, the Financial Institutions Initiative, and promote partnerships with industry sectors such as mining and oil, and tour operators;
  3.  raise awareness and exchange information on methodologies, guidelines, procedures, management tools, technologies as well as economic instruments and trade policies used by the private sector and governments to promote sustainable development;
  4. build capabilities of government and business to respond to key environmental concerns through training workshops, sponsoring tertiary educational activities, producing information systems including Internet-based discussion for a to promote best practices and encourage dialogue; and
  5. demonstrate projects which encourage the incorporation of environmental concerns into business priorities.
  6. Regularly evaluate progress toward sustainability goals and benchmark performance in particular through the Global Reporting Initiative Corporate Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

UNEP's goal is to bring its experience and strong relationship with business on environmental issues to the broader and increasingly important issues of social equity and global citizenship addressed in the Global Compact.

Attention to the 'triple bottom line' of sustainable development – that is balancing three types of capital – social, economic, environmental – is key if companies want to succeed in a globalizing economy and maintain long-term financial performance. Companies therefore need to redefine their policies, strategies, and practices t result in an efficient use of economic capital while simultaneously building and effectively using social and natural capital.

In this context, UNEP will contribute its expertise and activities to the Global Compact, and in close collaboration with ILO and UNHCR, will:

  • Continue to define and improve corporate environmental, social and economic indicators as part of the multi-stakeholder Global Reporting Initiative;
  • Continue to develop voluntary initiatives with specific industry sectors;
  • Develop practical approaches to supply-chain management, life cycle assessment, design for the environment, green procurement and other environmental management tools;
  • Work with small- and medium-sized enterprises to bring them along the sustainability agenda; and
  • Exchange information and perform clearinghouse functions on best practices and cleaner technologies.   

For further information, contact:
United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
Division Office
Tour Miraneau, 39-43 quai Andre Citroen
75739 Paris – Cedex 15
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