Hewlett-Packard hosted some 50 representatives of leading North American companies, as well as of academia, in a meeting held yesterday at its headquarters in Palo Alto, California, to establish a North America Global Compact Learning Forum. The meeting, co-hosted by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, provided an opportunity for Global Compact participants to inform other interested companies about the opportunities and challenges of engagement in the initiative, under which businesses affirm support for nine key human rights, labour rights and environmental standards. Participants recognized that more active participation from North American companies was essential to the success of the initiative, and also acknowledged that the Global Compact offers opportunities to address priority issues, including building trust between business and society. The Secretary-General first raised the notion of developing a “global compact of shared values and principles” in business at the World Economic Forum in January 1999. He challenged world business leaders to “embrace and enact” the benefits of global economic development through voluntary corporate policies and actions. Mr. Annan’s vision was realized 18 months later with the creation of the UN Global Compact. The initiative sets forth nine guiding principles that focus on human rights, labour standards and concern for the environment. Companies subscribing to the principles are encouraged to make clear statements of support and to submit an annual report that includes concrete examples of “good practices” for other firms to emulate.

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