Global impact: Making sustainability part of everything we do

Executive summary - Introduction

This report marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of the United Nations Global Compact. 15 years ago, a small group of leaders from the UN and business came up with a visionary proposal: to align corporate practices with ten universal principles; to mobilise the global business community to advance UN goals; and to build a sustainable, inclusive globaleconomy in which both business and society can thrive, within the environmental limits of the planet.

This change was never going to be easy. Entrenched business mindsets were not going to shift overnight. Now, 15 years on, it is time to take stock of how far we have come, what we have achieved, and the critical challenges we still face. It is time to build on the change we have seen over the past 15 years, and accelerate the scale of progress.

Our analysis begins by explaining how the UN Global Compact calls on businesses to take action, and its place in the history of the modern corporate sustainability movement. We then explore the role of the Global Compact in driving change by setting out 16 findings across three areas:

  1. Corporate practices;
  2. The corporate operating environment; and
  3. Dominant worldviews

To examine how the Global Compact is working to advance business leadership on some of the world’s most pressing challenges, we present ‘Spotlights’ on key action platforms including Caring for Climate, Business for Peace, the CEO Water Mandate and the Women’s Empowerment Principles. We also explore the effect of the Global Compact Local Networks, 88 country networks which work to anchor the Global Compact at the local level. Finally, we take a step back and reflect upon the impact we believe that the Global Compact has had over the years.

We conclude by setting out three pathways for the future – our recommendations for how we can work together to achieve the vision of a sustainable and inclusive global economy, and what the Global Compact can do to scale its impact.


To conduct the assessment, we have interviewed 214 representatives from business, academia, civil society, labour unions, government and the United Nations.

Of these, 56 were top executives. In addition, we have surveyed over 1,500 Global Compact participants, UN agencies and Global Compact Local Networks.