Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UN Global Compact

Chinese search engine Baidu (BIDU) officially announced that it
has committed to be a member of the United Nations Global
Compact to boost its daily management on corporate social
responsibility. Liu Meng, the China-based UN Global Compact
network manager, told local media that Baidu is one the first
Chinese Internet companies to join the Global Compact. Now
the Global Compact has more than 180 members in China,
including Sinopec, Petro China, China Mobile and Haier. The
participation of Baidu will work as a model to drive more
Internet companies to bring CSR system construction into
their strategic planning and to promote sustainable
development of the industry. The UN Global Compact is a
strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed
to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally
accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor,
environment and anti-corruption.

By joining the Global Compact, Baidu is committing to the ten
principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment
and anti-corruption laid out by the initiative. In the past,
Internet search engines like Google and Baidu have come
under international pressure for amending
and obfuscating their search engine results within China, which
some people overseas believe is immoral and unethical. In
addition, Baidu has come under attack in the past 18 months
for allowing illegal music downloads via its search engine links.
Though the Global Compact does not address intellectual property
rights or freedom of information directly, how Baidu's business
processes will change now that its has committed to such lofty
universal ideals as "respect [for] the protection of internationally
proclaimed human rights" is mostly unclear. The only clue comes
from Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, and what he stated in his
commitment letter to join the organization: "We are committed
to making the Global Compact and its principles part of the
strategy, culture and day-to-day operations of our company,
and to engaging in collaborative projects which advance the
broader development goals of the United Nations, particularly
the Millennium Development Goals. Baidu will make a clear
statement of this commitment to our stakeholders and the
general public."

Getting into the Global Compact does not automatically
afford Baidu an unconditional lifetime membership. Indeed
it is quite possible for the company to be dumped
from the initiative, as in July 2008 the United Nations Global
Compact Office announced that 630 companies, including
22 Chinese companies, have so far been removed from its list
of participants for failure to communicate progress. The
delisting of companies is part of ongoing efforts by the
UNGC Office to enhance the accountability and credibility
of the initiative, so Baidu must now stay vigilant in its dealings
with all of its stakeholders to ensure conformity and
compliance with the Global Compact guidelines.

No comments: