More Businesses Flock to U.N.’s Social-Responsibility Compact

The five-year-old United Nations Global Compact, which held its first summit in New York City last month, is the world’s biggest corporate social-responsibility initiative, with some 1,700 signatories. And what business wouldn’t want to sign on? In exchange for endorsing principles — principles with no mechanism for enforcement — businesses (or nongovernmental organizations, or unions) can wear a happy green face. If they fail to self-report on their attempts to live by the principles, they face a heavy penalty: They could be … taken off the compact’s list. Reporting on their socially responsible acts is in companies’ best interest anyway, because it allows them to publicize uplifting anecdotes through the U.N. American companies, initially mistaking the principles for enforceable standards, were slow to jump on the bandwagon, but enrollment by U.S. companies has risen markedly in the past few months. Social responsibility: It’s not just for the socially responsible anymore!