Sustainability’s Human Dimension

The Triple Bottom Line view of Sustainability includes a human dimension: People, as well as Planet and Profit. For many, how to address Planet and Profit is considerably clearer than how to address the People dimension.

My usual suggestion for smaller manufacturers is to begin close to home:

  • Make sure that working conditions are top drawer, with special emphasis on safety and industrial hygiene.

  • Make sure that your facility is a good neighbor. Your facility’s appearance, noise levels, atmospheric emissions (including permitted emissions) and local traffic issues are a few areas worth attention. The Golden Rule is a pretty good guide.

  • Actively support local civic activities, especially education.

UN Logo - DreamstimeIn many incidences, however, broader involvement is appropriate. This may be due to a home office mandate, or perhaps as response to customer interest (or demands). Regardless of the reason, the UN Global Compact offers a voluntary, globally recognized vehicle for addressing the Human Dimension.

The UN Global Compact requires a written commitment, usually by your Chief Executive Officer, to join the 8700 other businesses in 130 countries in adhering to ten principles[1]:

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

The UN Global Compact does require an annual Communication of Progress, which is posted on your website or some similar means of general access, and a copy of which is sent to the UN Secretary General. The Communication of Progress reports on activities regarding the 10 principles. There are no dues or charges, although a voluntary annual contribution to a fund that supports UN human rights activities is suggested.

For more information on the UN Global Compact, see:

Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated. Click on the title of this post to open the comments section.

…  Chuck Harrington (

: Visit Jera’s resource website for smaller manufacturers at:

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Graphic: Dreamstime,

[1] The list of 10 principles is from the UN Global Compact website,