A Special Appeal from the United Nations Global Compact

Updated 19 March 2020

The power of the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact to guide business leaders in responding to the crisis

As the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, the United Nations Global Compact is calling on business leaders everywhere to unite to support workers, communities and companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A coordinated international plan involving the business sector will be critical in efforts to support people and companies affected, limit further disruption to the economy and facilitate business continuity for a swift recovery.

For every decision maker, the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact can provide ideas and inspiration in uncertain times.

In the spirit of solidarity and international cooperation, the UN Global Compact encourages business leaders everywhere to use the Ten Principles as their guide in responding to the crisis.

Human Rights

Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and

Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

For example:

Ensure that any measure implemented to address COVID-19 is accessible to people without discrimination of any kind such as race, colour, disability, age, gender, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity or other status.

Ensure that the needs of those most marginalized and/or vulnerable are given the necessary and appropriate attention.


Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;

Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and

Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

For example:

Respond with flexibility, compassion and solidarity to the impact on your employees and your business partners, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Your efforts to limit financial impacts should not be made at the expense of workers’ rights and welfare.

Ensure a stable continuation of income and benefits despite flexible working arrangements: Staying off work because of illness, quarantine or caring for a sick family member may result in lost pay or lost jobs. Ensure a continuation of income in these cases with special attention to female workers who often take the burden of care and workers in precarious employment situations, such as low-paid workers, contractual workers and workers without any social protection coverage.  

Current contracts should be honored to the greatest extent possible. Engagement with suppliers is essential to ensure decent working conditions in global supply chains while providing support for business continuity by allowing flexibility in delivery and quotas.

Apply the principles of prevention and ensure a safe working environment by limiting employee exposure to coronavirus in the workplace through putting in place personal protective measures (hand hygiene), environmental measures (cleaning of surfaces) and work arrangements (work from home arrangements to the maximum extent possible, reduced person-to-person contact).


Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;

Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and

Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

For example:

Encourage telecommuting and virtual meetings which can reduce negative impacts on the environment caused by travel. Ensure tracking of the positive environmental impacts of telecommuting and virtual meetings on your carbon footprint in order to assess which practices could be encouraged long-term to reduce emissions.

In a very short period of time, the COVID-19 crisis has had a positive impact on the environment by reducing global carbon emissions. While travel will no doubt bounce back, we encourage travelers to consider travel options less harmful to the environment, such as train travel, and to choose ecotourism, which can support ecosystems and local livelihoods.


Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

For example:

Build trust through communications and policies that are consistent, inclusive and transparent.

Ensure that products and services are distributed and sold in an ethical manner.

Further guidance for those working in banking, insurance and finance:

Companies and their Chief Financial Officers can work together with banks and investors to ensure business continuity and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on operations, especially where there is a risk of disruption of essential products and services, including in the health, food and logistics industries.

Banks can make available special credit lines and relax repayment terms for existing credit products for the most at-risk populations and the businesses that deliver essential products and services.

Commercial and development banks can structure blended finance instruments leveraging philanthropic and donor funds and impact investments to fund commercial enterprises that support critical prevention and mitigation activities required by the crisis.

Insurance companies can ensure prompt and seamless payments of short-term disability and unemployment insurance benefits for employees and other workers affected by COVID-19.

Healthcare and health insurance companies can work together to alleviate the financial burden on patients requiring critical care associated with the outbreak.

Investors can relax temporary repayment terms for outstanding fixed income products for businesses that deliver essential products and services.

Impact investors can invest in commercial enterprises that support critical prevention and mitigation activities needed for COVID-19 response.

Other actions you and your company can take:

Support the global effort by contributing to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund which has been created to support the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners in a massive effort to help countries prevent, detect, and manage COVID-19 — particularly those where the needs are the greatest.

Raise awareness by sharing information from the WHO on precautions and other preventive measures.