NGOs Criticize “Blue Washing” by the Global Compact

Geneva, 04.07.2007 - At the “Public Eye on the Global Compact” in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, leading non-governmental organizations express harsh criticism regarding the Global Compact (GC), a UN initiative for social and ecological corporate citizenship. On the day before the second GC Leaders Summit opens, the NGOs appeal to its host, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to fundamentally rethink the “accord” with big business, launched by his predecessor Kofi Annan in 1999.

The Berne Declaration (BD) has organized the “Public Eye on Davos” and delivered its corporate criticisms directly to the gates of the World Economic Forum (WEF) since 2000. From the start, the Swiss development-political NGO has denounced the Global Compact as a toothless paper tiger, which in the meantime has over 2000 corporate signatories, but which serves as a fig leaf rather than as an honest commitment. In the tradition of these efforts BD has taken the initiative and convened a press meeting at which four NGOs present their different perspectives on the Global Compact.

“The continuous ‘blue washing’ harms the image of the UN as well as the development of effective standards for the trendy topic of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The extent to which the rhetoric and reality diverge is demonstrated by the various unpunished offenses committed against the ten Global Compact principles,” says BD Spokesperson Oliver Classen.

Daniel Mittler, Corporate Accountability Advisor at Greenpeace International, demands: “Instead of organizing expensive summit meetings, the UN must ultimately set internationally-binding CSR standards for corporate behaviour and see to their adherence. The world does not need more declarations of intent from corporations, but real actions that can be measured and monitored. Least of all, it needs companies such as Areva using the GC climate initiative to pretend that dangerous nuclear power can be part of the solution of the greatest threat facing humanity: climate change.”

The Head of Economic Relations at Amnesty International, Audrey Gaughran, believes: “While the Global Compact plays an important role in promoting corporate learning on human rights, without a robust accountability mechanism the potential to improve the human rights of business will be limited. But voluntary initiatives are only one part of the larger puzzle.”

Aftab Alam Khan, Head of Trade Policies at Action Aid, adds: “As long as the Global Compact accepts members like the British mining giant Anglo American, despite protests from civil society, the accord is not worth the paper it is written on. Through its African subsidiary AngloGold Ashanti, the corporation operates gold mines in Ghana where local populations have suffered from their ecological and social consequences for years.”