The UN’s Corporate Sustainability Report 2013

medium_laurel3.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Nearly 8,000 small, medium and large companies, including printers and publishers from 140 countries have signed up to the UN’s Global Compact, ten principles which cover human rights, labour, anticorruption and of course the environment. Principle 7 says that businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges; principle 8 says they should undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and principle 9 says they should encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. The UN published a sort of progress report earlier this year.

The Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013 confirms that all around the world companies are taking sustainability more seriously. The UN found that corporate leaders recognise the urgency of environmental challenges and how sustainability problems affect their profits. This is good news, particularly since interest in matters sustainable seems to be waning in some sectors. Businesses around the world appreciate that sustainability priorities can support growth. These companies include publishers of course, but for all of them publishing of some sort is vital to their communications strategies.

The UN report is based on 1712 survey responses from business owners in 113 countries, most of them employing between 5,000 and 50,000 people. The survey covers all ten Global Compact principles and found that companies are starting to put into practise their good intentions, training people to make sustainability integral to their operations. This is good, but less good is the fact that too few companies track their own or their suppliers’ compliance with sustainability goals. Fifty percent of respondents have voluntary charters or codes of practise, but only 27% involve their stakeholders in their sustainability conversations.

This perhaps is why for large companies tracking compliance is the biggest barrier to moving forward with their sustainability strategies, whether they are printers, publishers or otherwise. As big businesses are pretty much the leaders, this does not sound too good for smaller enterprises. The UN estimates that there are 70,000 multinationals around the world plus millions of simpler business entities. These are the companies printers serve which suggests that environmentally friendly business practises will become an important criteria when it comes to selecting a service provider. Having an environmental policy is the first and most important step, but implementing it in your supply chains matters more and is far harder. Whatever your starting point now is the time to start polishing those environmental credentials.

– Laurel Brunner

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