Business should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
Internationally co-ordinated work on the environment has been led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), since its inception in 1973. UNEP has provided leadership and encouraged partnerships to care for the environment, for example, through Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) which have addressed issues such as species loss and the need for conservation at a global and regional level. UNEP has created much of the international environmental law in use today.
The three environmental principles of the Global Compact are drawn from a Declaration of Principles and an International Action Plan (Agenda 21) that emerged from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Chapter 30 of Agenda 21, identified that the policies and operations of business and industry can play a major role in reducing impacts on resource use and the environment. In particular, business can contribute through the promotion of cleaner production and responsible entrepreneurship.
The environmental principles of the Global Compact provide an entry point for business to address the key environmental challenges. In particular, the principles direct activity to areas such as research, innovation, co-operation, education, and self-regulation that can positively address the significant environmental degradation, and damage to the planet's life support systems, brought by human activity.