UN Global Compact debuts local network in Tanzania

Jan 20, 2016

Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan officiates at the inauguration of the Global Compact Network Tanzania, reflecting increased commitment to the values and principles of corporate social responsibility by businesses and companies operating in the country. Enterprises and organizations that participate in the network stand to benefit by developing effective practices and solutions as part of an innovative multilateral initiative, focusing on human rights, labour, the environment, and anti-corruption.

With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a Global Compact Local Network has launched in Tanzania, reflecting increased commitment to the values and principles of corporate social responsibility by businesses and companies operating in the country.

The network already has in place a four-year strategic plan, a functional website and a governing structure; showing the commitment and eagerness s of the members to actively take part in global initiatives that encourage socially responsible business.

As a voluntary initiative, the UN Global Compact seeks wide participation from a diverse group of businesses. As a participant in the Global Compact, a company sets in motion changes to business operations to deliver long- term value in financial, social, environmental and ethical terms. In essence, the Global Compact asks businesses to do no harm, make a difference, and work with others. And local networks advance corporate sustainability at the grassroots level by helping companies understand what responsible business means within a national context. The Global Compact supports and builds the capacity of such networks, and facilitates knowledge sharing among them.

In Tanzania, over 45 signatories from a range of sectors and industries have signed onto the initiative; each has committed to embed human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles into their operations and disclose progress.

Speaking at the launch, the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Ms. Samia Suluhu Hassan underscored that the establishment of the network sent a strong signal that it was high time for Tanzania to fundamentally change the nature and operations of private sector in the country.

“Your decision to join the network is an act to expand and improve private sector engagement at the United Nations. Being a new member, you need to do a better job of translating high-level principles into action, help in harmonizing the due diligence approaches and provide guidance or a set of standards for how to partner and how to communicate, and also help to build trust between business and governments where there is still skepticism about the motivation of business. A major challenge is how to help business to sustainably grow and become successful,” she said.

In recent years, Tanzania has made a surge towards becoming a middle income economy and while oil and gas and new economic sectors offer huge potential, some real development challenges make this road precarious. Significant among them are corruption and environmental degradation issues, which strikes a chord with the priorities and intentions expressed by President John Pombe Magufuli.

According to the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Alvaro Rodriguez, supporting sustainable corporate governance through the Global Compact principles would therefore contribute towards the achievement of anti-corruption efforts and protection of the environment.

“The ten principles behind the UN Global Compact, embracing human rights, labour standards, the environment, and the fight against corruption, offer a measure of how far the concept of being a good corporate citizen has evolved in the past couple decades,” he added.

When the idea of establishing a Global Compact Network in Tanzania emerged, Switzerland was quick to extend its engagement at global level to the country level. It commissioned a feasibility study to see if there was enough “demand” from the business side to drive this process forward. The response was a careful “yes”.

Businesses generally recognized the Global Compact values and principles but were not very clear what that could mean for them in Tanzania, meaning that there was a clear information and knowledge gap on how to make universal principles meaningful for businesses in Tanzania. So, in a second phase, practical information was gathered on how to establish a local network and concrete examples were collected of how businesses in other countries use the Global Compact to improve their own operations but also to improve the business environment in general. Eventually a group of Global Compact champions emerged from that process. In a third phase, that group of champions received support to conceive a local network, to mobilize businesses to sign up, to go out and learn from other networks in Kenya and South Africa and to create basic conditions for takeoff.

“The moment seems right: businesses are eager to make the most of the many opportunities that the country offers, and the new government has made a strong and public commitment to improve the business environment in the rightful expectation to see its domestic revenue increase through constructive engagement,” said Switzerland’s Ambassador to Tanzania, Florence Tinguely Mattli.

“We know the Global Compact is not a solution by itself, but it is an instrument that can be used to transform the goodwill on both government and business side in sustainable progress that benefits many Tanzanians,” she added.

The establishment of the network was been spearheaded by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), along with eight founding signatory companies and non-companies - including Helvetic Group, Statoil, IPP Media, Association of Tanzanian Employers (ATE), Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the CEO Round Table (CEOrt).