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U.N. Encourages Corporate Sustainability Reporting

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May 31, 2013

The United Nations has issued a report from a high-level panel tasked with developing a post-2015 development agenda in which it calls for all companies to produce corporate sustainability reports.

The recommendations were a small part of a much broader report that calls for sweeping changes to eliminate extreme poverty across the globe by 2030. The report, entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development,” sets out an ambitious agenda to eradicate extreme poverty and deliver on the promise of sustainable development. The report calls upon the world to rally around a new Global Partnership “that offers hope and a role to every person in the world.”

The panel was established by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and was co-chaired by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Among the key recommendations is to integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability to slow the pace of climate change and environmental degradation.

The report acknowledges that many of the world’s largest companies are already leading the transformation to a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. In compiling the report, the authors said the panel consulted with the CEOs of 250 companies in 30 countries, with annual revenues exceeding $8 trillion, along with 5,000 civil society organizations, plus academics from developed and developing countries, international and local non-government organizations and civil society movements, and parliamentarians.

The report calls for corporate tax reform, anti-bribery efforts and a form of integrated reporting. “Governments can work with business to create a more coherent, transparent and equitable system for collecting corporate tax in a globalized world. They can tighten the enforcement of rules that prohibit companies from bribing foreign officials. They can prompt their large multinational corporations to report on the social, environmental and economic impact of their activities.”

The report encourages multinational corporations to “pay taxes fairly in the countries in which they operate. And, as the world’s largest per-capita consumers, developed countries must show leadership on sustainable consumption and production and adopting and sharing green technologies.”

The report encourages the use of sustainability reporting at all companies by 2030. “As more industries develop sustainability certification, it will be easier for civil society and shareholders to become watchdogs, holding firms accountable for adhering to industry standards and worker safety issues, and being ready to disinvest if they do not. Today, however, only 25 percent of large companies report to shareholders on their sustainability practices; by 2030, this should be commonplace.”

The U.N. also provided a copy of a background research paper prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers U.K.’s global sustainability and climate change practice on what it calls Total Impact Measurement and Management, or TIMM, which would provide a “balanced scorecard” of a business’s social, economic, environmental and tax contribution impact. The U.N. noted, however, that the paper “reflects the views of the author and does not represent the views of the panel.” It was provided as background research for the main report as one of the many inputs into the process.

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