The United Nations Global Compact has officially announced its support for the Pegasus Project by means of a letter from its Executive Director, George Kell, and, therefore, its support for the United Nations to declare a Youth Employment Decade.

What exactly is the United Nations Global Compact?

The United Nations Global Compact is an international initiative that promotes the implementation of the 10 universally accepted principles in the fields of human rights, labour standards, environment and the fight against corruption in the activities and the business strategy of companies. With more than 12,000 signatories from more than 145 countries, it is the largest voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative in the world.

In addition, it encourages private sector organizations to contribute to the goals of the United Nations.

The Spanish organisation is the most important Local Network of the 86 that exist throughout the world. We are leaders in number of signatories, in sustainability reports submitted and in innovative tools for our signatories. Spain has been a consolidated leader of this initiative for years.

One of its 10 Principles deals with jobs; jobs that millions of young people around the world cannot find. What can be done to improve this situation?

As we have said previously, the 10 principles of the Global Compact are divided into four areas. The Labour Regulations group includes principles 3, 4, 5 and 6. More specifically, Principle 6 includes practices that have to do with the access of young people to the labour market, not only regarding employment opportunities, but positions that ensure their rights, non-discrimination on grounds of age, wages and jobs in conditions of equality and training.

Principle 1 also includes the promotion, attraction and preservation of talent, with specific measures for younger workers.

How do you value projects such as Pegasus?

The Spanish Global Compact Network has a very positive view of this project launched by our partner, the Novia Salcedo Foundation because, on the one hand it’s a matter of pride that our partner’s initiatives have achieved such widespread international renown and, on the other hand, because thanks to organisations like yours, our entities can be seen to lead the new sustainable development scenario set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular the opportunity to work toward goal number 8 of the SDG: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.

Is the labour map for young people in Spain very different when compared to other western countries?

The Spanish Global Compact Network has just completed a mapping exercise covering all interest groups in our country that have something to say in the field of Sustainable Development Goals. One of the points that we have detected as one of our country’s needs refers to the fact that the public administrations, private entities and employers have a lot to do in this regard. We have identified weaknesses and improvement opportunities, such as the need to create long-term jobs, to ensure the equality of employees regardless of their age, the need to stop the brain drain and the need for companies and the education system to work together at all levels to improve the training of young people and favour their incorporation into the labour market.

How do you favour business sustainability in times of crisis such as the current situation?

In general, compliance with the 10 principles promulgated by the Global Compact has continued to progress in Spain in spite of the recession. Through the analysis of the progress reports that companies publish each year regarding their progress in the implementation of these principles, we have found that the organizations committed to the Global Compact have not renounced corporate responsibility in times of crisis, retaining their budgets dedicated to social responsibility. More than 51% of large companies have increased or have not changed their budgets while maintaining or increasing the number of actions performed. Sustainability is on the agenda of Spanish companies and we believe that we are taking the necessary steps to facilitate the tasks of companies that are committed. For example, through practical tools that enable them to implement human rights, become more transparent, assistance in communicating with their stakeholders and training in ethical principles, including non-discrimination in hiring due to age.

The UN Global Compact asks companies to adopt, support and promulgate a set of core values in the field of labour. Do you find that this is really the case, that companies do apply these values in their day to day activities?

The analysis of the progress reports published in 2014 by the companies that adhered to the Global Compact, we know that about 75% of the challenges or work areas selected by the organizations were defined as opportunities (instead of risks). This means that these are CSR aspects that are already being managed by companies, a large majority of which consider sustainability an issue that favours them. More specifically, the thematic block of the Global Compact that is most widely applied is human rights. Large companies focus their work on training employees. In both cases, the predominant concern is health & safety. In the field of labour issues, large companies are noted for their work regarding gender equality, while smaller businesses work more on reconciling work and family.

We have known for some time that companies focus more on labour issues but there are still challenges, such as the extension of social responsibility to a greater number of SMEs, which are, after all, the bulk of our country’s business fabric, and ensuring that these practices are applied throughout the entire supply chain of large organisations.

What are the chances of success of Novia Salcedo’s initiative before the UN?

Let’s hope they are good, because the goal is very important not only for our country but for all the world and it would also have an effect on other important issues, such as education, the future of social protection systems, movement between countries and even investments in technology or research, which are all closely linked to training.

Isabel Garro, director general of the Spanish Network of the United Nations Global Compact and Chairperson of the Advisory Council of Local Global Compact Networks