2024 Annual Letter to UN Global Compact Participants from Sanda Ojiambo
Dear Participants of the UN Global Compact,
Today’s great challenges – climate change, conflict, widening inequalities, socio-economic and geopolitical changes – intensify, while the confluence of social, technological, political and economic megatrends generates unprecedented complexity, uncertainty and disruption.
We face an expanding list of bigger, more critical decisions and equally critical opportunities demanding our attention. The consequences of action, or inaction, are greater than ever.
Over the last few years, I have heard time and again from business leaders seeking to leverage the private sector's strengths to solve problems and drive transformative change. The global, regional and local convenings of the UN Global Compact have provided opportunities for sharing cross-cutting solutions and breakthroughs on diverse challenges, including climate action, renewable energy and living wage.
Innovations and solutions are within reach. Collectively, we must move at a speed, scale and scope that ensures sustainable results for the challenges we face.
Twenty-five years ago, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the private sector to form a global compact for business and bring a human face to the global market. Since then, the Global Compact has grown to a participant base of more than 20,000 companies. Our ambition is to continue on a solid growth and delivery trajectory, especially when the private sector is needed now more than ever.
2023 marked the mid-point of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The setbacks to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were widely acknowledged. This reality check emphasized the need for all stakeholders—businesses, Governments, civil society and the United Nations—to work harder and smarter together.
In response, the UN Global Compact launched the Forward Faster initiative. This initiative focuses on five key action areas – gender equality, climate action, living wage, finance & investment and water resilience which represent critical multipliers to accelerate progress through private sector actions across all 17 SDGs. It’s a seven-year push to 2030 that all participants should join.
Addressing Critical Issues
Progress on the SDGs is intertwined with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact—human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Throughout 2023, the UN Global Compact and its participants addressed critical issues at key gatherings on these topics, demonstrating that principled and value-based business actions result in real financial and sustainability value for business.
After the 12th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which took stock of 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we remain committed to equipping companies with tools for ongoing human rights due diligence processes.
Post COP28, clear signals on renewables, adaptation and finance emerged. We are ready to build bridges between business and policymakers revising their climate action plans which should serve as investment roadmaps for the private sector.
Following the 10th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, where we co-hosted the gathering’s first Private Sector Forum, we continue our work to stamp out corruption, energized by the support of the 190 Governments that resolved to strengthen business integrity and work with the private sector following our Call-to-Action which was signed by 500 companies.
In 2024, the UN Global Compact will continue to serve as a platform for companies to lead, learn, connect, advocate and report. By providing actionable guidance on how to apply the Ten Principles in business operations, our focus will be on accountability, delivery, ambition, and mobilization. This includes a reinvigorated effort to deliver a Communication on Progress platform for participants.
With the establishment of our regional hubs in Abuja, Bangkok, Copenhagen, Dubai and Panama City, we will work closer with participating companies and Global Compact Networks. Looking ahead, we want more businesses, coalitions and partnerships to drive actions at the local and regional scales and scopes needed for transformation.
The Summit of the Future this September will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance cooperation on critical challenges and address gaps in global governance. It will reaffirm existing commitments, including to the SDGs, and move towards a reinvigorated multilateral system.
We are poised to bring the private sector into important conversations prior to, and during the Summit. Safeguarding the future, addressing short-termism and turbocharging the SDGs are all in the interest of responsible business.
Let’s leverage the power of 20,000 companies together for the private sector-led opportunities that we must seize and advance. I encourage all participants to engage with our global, regional and local platforms and programmes.
Being Part of the UN Global Compact
Being part of the UN Global Compact means advancing the voice of the private sector as a key contributor to the SDGs on global platforms. It means engaging the private sector in key transitions of energy, climate, food systems, education, digital connectivity and jobs. It means building powerful regional platforms to advance regional priorities.
Looking at some of the places where we worked in 2023, it means advancing renewable energy in Europe and business-led biodiversity conservation in the Amazon. It means working across industries to fight gender discrimination and upskill women in the workplace in Sri Lanka and helping SMEs in Ukraine rebuild their businesses despite the ongoing war. It means a public-private partnership for sustainable transport in Nigeria. In the United States, it means harnessing the private sector to ensure that companies and their global supply chains have the resources and support to fully integrate the SDGs and Ten Principles into their operations.
Growing stronger companies and more resilient economies worldwide is what it looks like to be part of the UN Global Compact.
This is a glimpse of the future we all want. In 2024, let’s be brave and more ambitious than ever.
CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact