Try googling ‘management system’ images and your desktop instantly morphs into a Willy Wonka-esque sweetshop of brightly colored lozenges, pyramids and flow diagrams. And one of the brightest, most colorful new management candies on the block is the UN Global Compact Management Model.
The fruit of a partnership with Deloitte, its goal is to provide a framework that is at once flexible, dynamic, practical, straightforward and scalable – to help leaders and learners alike translate the UN Global Compact’s 10 principles into practice. Geared at continuous monitoring and improvement of an organization’s alignment with the principles, six management steps are presented in a circular process. Sustainability and management experts, civil society and academia have all chipped in.
The result is a vivid gobstopper that adapts the basic operating principles of ISO management system standards – Plan, Do, Check, Act – to the requirements of the Compact: Commit, Assess, Define, Implement, Measure, Communicate. At the end of the process, companies are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the Compact, and the cycle begins again. To work successfully, the model relies on three additional factors: governance, transparency and engagement.
An undoubted virtue of the UNGC management model is in offering those new to the Compact a clear, simplified way to approach and apply it – and here I think it can play a big, de-mystifying role.
Handy tips are provided for those ‘getting started’ as well as insight into ‘leadership practices.’ It is universal, generic and stand-alone.
But it’s this last quality, I would argue, that’s also its weakness when it comes to more advanced signatories.
While putting in place a dedicated management process may help in the early stages of implementing the Compact, ultimately, the ten principles must be intrinsic to a company’s culture, across all functions, not a separate, bolt-on process working in parallel.
For those already well advanced on the corporate responsibility road, the real challenge lies in merging the 10 principles seamlessly into existing management approaches, into ‘the way we do business.’ Setting up a new, dedicated management system runs the risk of keeping the UNGC commitment forever at arm’s length to the core of the business.
Total integration is by far the sweetest model of all.