Framing the Role of Business in Society

The United Nations Global Compact and the United National Millennium Development Goals

 "A great society is a society in which its men of business think greatly of their functions." - Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947)

During the 1999 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the world's largest corporate citizenship initiative - the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). The Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses committed to align their operations and strategies to ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. 

In 2000, 189 world leaders gathered at the United Nations' Headquarters in New York and committed their nations to a partnership focused on the more than one billion people worldwide living in extreme poverty.  This meeting set eight goals for humanity to be accomplished by 2015, which have come to be known as the UN Millennium Development Goals (UNMDG). 

Microsoft's founder and Chairman, Bill Gates pledged Microsoft's commitment to the UNMDGs in 2007 and our Chief Executive Officer, Steve Ballmer endorsed the UNGC in 2009 and in a letter to the UN Secretary General referenced the Compact as "an important element in our corporate commitment to the advancement of basic human rights and dignity... and foundational for our ongoing agenda for responsible corporate citizenship."

The principles established by the UNGC and the goals outlined in the UNMDG  are the subject of a  conference I am currently attending here in South Bend, Indiana sponsored by Notre Dame's Mendoza College's Center for Ethics and Religious Values;  the UN Global Compact; and the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education.

The main objective of the conference, according to Rev. Oliver Williams, Notre Dame's Director of the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business, "is to help people understand that business serves the common good..."

Later today, I will be joined on a panel by John Bee of Nestle and Kathy Hannan of KPMG to share examples of the work our three companies have done to mainstream the UNGC's ten principles in our business activities, as well as actions we have taken to advance the UNMDGs. 

While it is impossible to do justice to three decades of commitment to development and basic human rights and responsible business practices in a one hour panel discussion, a few specific highlights of our work come to mind. 

As our company has grown, so has our commitment to addressing global and local development issues.  Through the range of our global community-based programs, Microsoft supports schools, public libraries and local community organizations with access to technology and skills training and we enable employee volunteering in Microsoft-sponsored initiatives and other programs in communities around the world.  Since 1983, Microsoft and its employees have given $4.6 billion in cash, services and software to nonprofits around the world through localized, company-sponsored giving and volunteer campaigns, with $603 million given in FY10 alone. 

Operating our business responsibly is essential to our continued long-term growth.  In seeking to operate responsibly, Microsoft is guided by our mission, values, principles and policies but also by the 10 principles of the UNGC focused in the areas of human rights; labor standards; environment; and anti-corruption. 

At Microsoft, we recognize the positive impact that business, particularly multinational corporations, can have on the realization of fundamental human rights.  To that end, we are proud to be founding members of the Global Network Initiative - in partnership with a range of other stakeholders including Google and Yahoo - to advance the protection of free expression and privacy. 

Managing our supply chain of nearly 62,000 contractors, suppliers and vendors - is done in full recognition of our obligations under the UNGC.  In 2009, we initiated a special on-site audit at a supplier factory in Dongguan, China that charged employee mistreatment.  This prompted us to look for ways to enhance our Vendor Code of Conduct and monitoring processes to ensure the far treatment of all workers in our supply chain.

Microsoft is committed to software and technology innovation that helps people and organizations around the world improve and sustain the environment.  Our goals are to reduce the impact of our operations and products and to drive responsible environmental leadership.  While our work includes a range of initiatives, one highlight is that the new data centers we opened last year consume 50% less energy than those built just three years ago.

Our commitment to strong anti-corruption policies and practices is resolute and Microsoft does not tolerate bribery or corruption of any kind.  Every Microsoft employee is held accountable for complying with our Standards of Business Conduct and receives training on ethical conduct as part of new employee orientation as well as mandatory annual training.   

I hope you will take the time to learn more about what we are doing to fulfill our responsibilities and commitments to the UNMDG and the UNGC by visiting the Microsoft Citizenship website.


For more information on Microsoft's Citizenship effort please visit:

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Comments (1)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good thing they conduct this meeting to be able to solve people's problem.

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