The United Nations has re-launched its corporate sustainability initiative with 54 companies committing to higher levels of performance, impact and collective action relating to the objectives of the United Nations Global Compact.
In its first decade the Global Compact adopted thousands of company's corporate sustainability principles. It was criticised, however, by civil society organisations for lacking effective assessment and enforcement, and was ultimately perceived as being used as a public relations instrument rather than constituting a genuine commitment to progress.
The relaunch positions 54 "LEAD" companies as standard-bearers of the Compact. The LEAD companies have endorsed a Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability Leadership, promising "a new level of performance" in commitment and achievements from companies in the sustainability agenda.
Two elements are of particular relevance to the chemical sector. Firstly, the Core Business Contribution to UN Goals and Issues, which implies a challenge to manufacturers to contribute to the UN SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management) goal of achieving "the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment."
Secondly are the issues around Transparency and Disclosure, where an emphasis on sharing sustainability information with all interested parties conflicts with an established tendency towards keeping secret the chemical ingredients of products. It will be a challenge for chemical producers to report on the chemical hazards in their product portfolio and work transparently towards developing and using safer alternatives.
The UN expects Global Compact LEAD companies to share their knowledge through the initiative's local networks in more than 90 countries and report on their activities at an advanced level. The LEAD participants have promised to work more actively with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, many of which have built significant business partnership capacities in recent years in order to involve business in addressing global challenges.
Chemical producing companies that are members of the LEAD group
- BASF SE (DE)
- Bayer AG (DE)
- Novartis International AG (Pharma) (CH)
- Novo Nordisk (Pharma) (DK)
- Novozymes (DK)
- Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd (JP)
- Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd (JP)