By Kate McClaskey

More than 1,000 companies convened last week in New York City for the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit. Business, civil and government leaders joined together for the tenth anniversary summit where among the topics discussed was the Global Compact Management Model, a recently launched management tool designed to assist companies in their endeavors to follow the principles set out by the compact.

The Global Compact was launched in 2000 with only 44 businesses which came together voluntarily to make a commitment to incorporate universal human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption principles into their operations. The number of signatories now involved in the compact has grown to over 6,000, making it the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative.

However there has not been a universal approach for companies to implement the principles.

Some choose to apply them at the beginning of their sustainability efforts while others must insert them into their current operations. Due to every signatory’s unique sustainability standing, a hodge podge of different approaches has emerged. In an effort to solve this problem, the UN in partnership with Deloitte & Touche created the Management Model, to provide a framework for companies implementing the standards and putting the principles into practice.

That is the hope of Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Georg Kell. While he admits that it is particularly helpful for newcomers to the Global Compact, the model was designed to also assist the veterans with examples of ways to aspire towards further improvement and set long term goals.

Developed with input and feedback from more than 50 business participants of the Global Compact, incorporates six time-proven management steps: commit, assess, define, implement, measure, and communicate. Higher levels of performance is the key to ensuring the compact is used most effectively and the fundamental reason for the model.

By improving the values and goals of companies, the long term success of the same companies is better ensured. Over the past few years there has been a shift in what is expected of them. No longer is it acceptable that companies exist simply to make a profit. According to a recent study, due to the past economic developments, companies investing responsibly and in sustainability seem to be the new trend.

This means that they must improve the conditions that are necessary to produce profit to follow this trend demanded of them. Companies are now examining ethical, social and environmental criteria before investing, all of which was the goal of the Global Compact when it was created and what the Management Model is trying to improve.

Creating a model for companies to change by has also created an environment that looks closer at those who work within those companies.

New York Mayor Bloomberg emphasized this new importance of business at a personal level saying, “The future belongs to companies ensuring diversity and dignity in the work place.”

In her article “Supporting Human Rights is Good Business” Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed how better attention to human rights can improve overall employee happiness and engagement. She emphasizes that there are two main things companies should pay attention to.

The first is to realize that human rights can encompass things from safety to security to access to water to workplace discrimination. They are the foundation on which businesses should analyze risk and social conduct.

The second is that even though they may not see the importance in human rights, other companies will. Since the initiation of the Global Compact, the world has raised the bar when it comes to respecting human rights.

The key, Robinson emphasizes, is that business leaders need to realize that respecting human rights makes good business sense. It can lead to an avoidance of lawsuits, boycotts, turnover all of which can cost a company and can be avoided.

This directly ties back to what the Management Model is attempting to create; a better environment for employees and better business practices by companies.

Commenting on the Management Model, Deloitte’s Global Chairman of the Board John Connolly said, “We have seen time and again that strong values and principled leadership are crucial to generating long-term rewards for companies. We have also observed a dramatic shift in society’s expectations of business–a shift away from the idea that business is only about profit-making ahead of all other motives, and towards the notion that companies must actively foster the social and environmental conditions that make profitability possible. It’s our fervent hope that the UN Global Compact Management Model serves as the bridge that links these two drivers of corporate behavior.”

The question of how many companies will adopt the Management Model is yet to be determined.