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The UN Global Compact: The Challenge and the Promise

Oliver F. Williams
Business Ethics Quarterly
Vol. 14, No. 4, Business Ethics in a Global Economy (Oct., 2004), pp. 755-774
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3858012
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The UN Global Compact: The Challenge and the Promise
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Abstract

The UN Global Compact is a voluntary initiative designed to help fashion a more humane world by enlisting business to follow ten principles concerning human rights, labor, the environment, and corruption. Although the four-year-old Compact is a relatively successful initiative, having signed up over eleven hundred companies and more than two hundred of the large multinationals, and having begun some important projects on globalization issues, there is a serious problem in that very few of the major U.S. companies have joined. While the premier U.S. companies are interested in meeting the legitimate expectations of society, there is concern centering around accountability issues. The accountability issues are in four major areas: 1. Accountability showing that the globalization of the economy actually helps the poor. 2. Accountability showing the corporate performance matches rhetoric. 3. Accountability that provides legitimacy to a two-tier pricing system and other measures that are designed to assist the poor in developing countries. 4. Accountability in the human rights area; what societal expectations are multinational companies accountable for? The article outlines the problems that the Compact brings to the fore and offers some insight from the ethical literature that may address U.S. company concerns or provide new ways of thinking about the issues. It further argues that the forum provided by the Compact may be the most effective means to gain consensus of the role of business in society.

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