Communicating Progress on Meeting the United Nations Global Compact Goals – an analysis of the South African experience

Keywords: corporate responsibility, United Nations Global Compact


The purpose of business has been a consistent focus area in the field of corporate responsibility (CR). This article examines public disclosures on CR made by South African signatories to the United Nations Global Compact, with reference to recent contributions on the purpose of business.Over time, the focus of CR has shifted from an internal corporate to a broader systemic perspective, reflecting the view that the responsibility of corporations cannot be addressed in isolation. In terms of purpose, Porter and Kramer present Creating Shared Value (CSV) as a way to reinvent capitalism. Donaldson and Walsh argue that what counts as value for a single firm is not the same as value for business in general, and propose a world where collective value is optimized.Corporations have to confront global challenges with commitment and innovation. If they can do so successfully it will be in their own interest and also in the interest of the planet. It is frequently argued that – in addition – it will be the right thing to do from a moral perspective. The use of “in addition†is significant: it illustrates one of the key conceptual challenges to understanding the (perceived) tension between the business case and the moral case for corporate responsibility. “In addition†implies that the business case and the moral case are separate, but that, if they are aligned, there would be no tension. It is argued that the traditional resolution of this tension – enlightened self-interest –is both superficial and flawed.It is proposed that more corporate support for CR based on a normative foundation should be encouraged, and that the concept of Optimized Collective Value is an appropriate way to achieve this.


Carroll, A., Lipartito, K., Post, J., Werhane, P., and Goodpaster, K. (2012). Corporate responsibility: The American experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crane, A., Palazzo, G., Spence, L. J., and Matten, D. (2014). Contesting the value of "Creating Shared Value". California Management Review, 56(2), 130-153.

Donaldson, T., and Dunfee, T. (1994). Toward a unified conception of business ethics: Integrative Social Contracts Theory. Academy of Management Review, 19(2), 252-284.

Donaldson, T., and Dunfee, T. (1999). Ties that bind: A social contracts approach to business ethics. Boston: Harvard University Press.

Donaldson, T., and Walsh, J. (2015). Toward a theory of business. Research in Organizational Behavior, 35, 181-207.

Eskom. (2012). Advanced Communication on Progress 2012. Eskom. Johannesburg.

Friedman, M. (2002). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. In Donaldson, T. Werhane, P. and Cording, M. (eds.), Ethical issues in business: A philosophical approach. Seventh edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 33-38.

Hamann, R., Agbazue, T., Kapelus, P., and Hein, A. (2005). Universalizing corporate social responsibility? South African challenges to the International Organization for Standardization's new social responsibility standard. Business and Society Review, 110(1), 1-19.

Kell, G. (2013). Former Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. New York: Personal interview, 5 August.

Malan, D. (2016). Corporate support for the SDGs: A South African perspective. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 64, December, 98-121.

Porter, M., and Kramer, M. (2011). Creating shared value. Harvard Business Review (HBR Reprint R1101C), 1-17.

Porter, M., and Kramer, M. (2014). A response to Andrew Crane et al.'s article by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer. California Business Review, 56(2), 149-151.

Rasche, A., and Kell, G. (2010). The United Nations Global Compact: Achievements, trends and challenges. New York: Cambridge University Press.

The Economist. (2005). The good company: A survey of corporate social responsibility, 22 January.

The Economist. (2008). Just good business: A special report on corporate social responsibility, 19 January.

United Nations. (1998). Linking universal values with the global reach of business – Strategy note for Davos speech (summary). the_gc/GC_Strategy_note_18Dec98.pdf. Accessed: 14 December 2014.

United Nations. (1999). Secretary-general proposes Global Compact on human rights, labour, environment, in address to World Economic Forum in Davos. Accessed: 12 February 2017.

Williams, O. F. (2008). Responsible corporate citizenship and the ideals of the United Nations Global Compact. In Williams, O. (ed.), Peace through commerce: Responsible corporate citizenship and the ideals of the United Nations Global Compact. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 431-552.